Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Chemists mimic nature to design better medical tests

Date:
February 14, 2012
Source:
University of California - Santa Barbara
Summary:
Over their 3.8 billion years of evolution, living organisms have developed countless strategies for monitoring their surroundings. Chemists have adapted some of these strategies to improve the performance of DNA detectors. Their findings may aid efforts to build better medical diagnostics, such as improved HIV or cancer tests.

By mimicking natural sensors, Vallée-Bélisle, Ricci and Plaxco have created biosensors that are highly precise (ideal for monitoring the concentration of highly toxic drugs used to treat many cancers) or that can detect a very large change in target concentrations (ideal to monitor HIV virus progression). The researchers believe that these strategies can be applied to a wide range of biosensors, which may significantly impact efforts to build better point-of-care biosensors for the detection of disease biomarkers.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Santa Barbara

Over their 3.8 billion years of evolution, living organisms have developed countless strategies for monitoring their surroundings. Chemists at UC Santa Barbara and University of Rome Tor Vergata have adapted some of these strategies to improve the performance of DNA detectors. Their findings may aid efforts to build better medical diagnostics, such as improved HIV or cancer tests.

Their research is described in an article published this week in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Nature often serves as a source of inspiration for the development of new technologies. In the field of medical diagnostics, for example, scientists have long taken advantage of the high affinity and specificity of biomolecules such as antibodies and DNA to detect molecular markers in the blood. These molecular markers allow them to monitor health status and to guide treatments for diseases, including HIV, cancer, and diabetes.

Kevin W. Plaxco, a professor of chemistry at UCSB, whose group carried out the research, notes that despite their great attributes, a main limitation of such biosensors is their precision, which is confined to a fixed, well-defined "dynamic range" of target concentrations. Specifically, the useful dynamic range of typical biomolecule binding events spans an 81-fold range of target concentrations

"This fixed dynamic range complicates -- or even precludes -- the use of biosensors in many applications," said Plaxco. "To monitor HIV progression and provide the appropriate medication, for example, physicians need to measure the levels of viruses over five orders of magnitude. Likewise, the two orders-of-magnitude range displayed by most biosensors is too broad to precisely monitor the concentrations of the highly toxic drugs used to treat many cancers. Our goal was, therefore, to create sensors with extended (for applications needing a broad dynamic range) or narrowed (for applications needing high measurement precision) dynamic ranges at will."

The key breakthrough underlying their new approach came from the simple observation of nature. "All living organisms monitor their environments in an optimized way by using sensing molecules that respond to either wide or narrow change in target concentrations," said Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, a postdoctoral fellow and the first author of the study. "Nature does so by combining in a very elegant way multiple receptors, each displaying a different affinity for their common target."

Inspired by the optimized behaviors of these natural sensors, the UCSB research group teamed up with Francesco Ricci, professor at the University of Rome Tor Vergata to do their own mixing and matching of biomolecules to manipulate biosensors' dynamic ranges. To validate their approach, they used a widely employed DNA-based biosensor used for detecting mutations in DNA called a "molecular beacon."

By combining sets of molecular beacons all binding the same target molecule but with differing affinities, the international team was able to create sensors with rationally "tuned" dynamic ranges. In one case, they developed a sensor that monitors DNA concentrations over a six orders of magnitude range. In another example, they developed an ultrasensitive sensor that precisely detects small changes in target concentration over only a five-fold dynamic range. Finally, they also built sensors characterized by complex, "custom-made" dynamic ranges in which the sensor is insensitive within a window of desired concentrations (e.g., the clinically "normal" concentration range of a drug) and very sensitive above or below this "appropriate" concentration range. The researchers believe that these strategies can be in principle applied to a wide range of biosensors, which may significantly impact efforts to build better point-of-care biosensors for the detection of disease biomarkers.

This work was funded by the National Institute of Health, the Fond Québécois de la Recherche sur la Nature et les Technologies, the Italian Ministry of University, and Research (MIUR) project "Futuro in Ricerca."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, Francesco Ricci, Kevin W. Plaxco. Engineering Biosensors with Extended, Narrowed, or Arbitrarily Edited Dynamic Range. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2012; 134 (6): 2876 DOI: 10.1021/ja209850j

Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Barbara. "Chemists mimic nature to design better medical tests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214134940.htm>.
University of California - Santa Barbara. (2012, February 14). Chemists mimic nature to design better medical tests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214134940.htm
University of California - Santa Barbara. "Chemists mimic nature to design better medical tests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120214134940.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) — Accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan and other cities around the world on Sunday to urge policy makers to take action on climate change. (Sept. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
What This MIT Sensor Could Mean For The Future Of Robotics

What This MIT Sensor Could Mean For The Future Of Robotics

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) — MIT researchers developed a light-based sensor that gives robots 100 times the sensitivity of a human finger, allowing for "unprecedented dexterity." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins