Early detection is often critical to surviving cancer, making methods of diagnosis a major focus for innovation. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDCA), a type of pancreatic cancer, is often detected too late, so researchers have developed a new diagnostic tool for this disease. Known as a nanoplasmic sensor assay, the test is designed to spot small markers of cancer in blood plasma. In this case, it identifies tumour-derived extracellular vesicles (tEVs), minute cytoplasmic sacs produced by cells, containing proteins and other molecules characteristic of tumours. The test involves shining a beam of light on a tiny chip, with an array of nanoscale holes, or nanopores (pictured), coated in antibodies specific to PDCA tEVs. Binding of tEVs (shown as multicoloured spheres) to these antibodies causes a shift in the light re-emitted from the chip, enabling detection. Highly sensitive and accurate, this assay should greatly improve our ability to diagnose pancreatic cancer.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.