The cells communicate with each other by different mechanisms. One way to transport information, and not especially known, is through extracellular vesicles (VE).
EVs can be considered as small “pieces” of a cell that can be detached and circulated throughout the body to deliver messages to other cells. These messengers have become increasingly recognized as crucial mediators of cell-to-cell communication.
Since its discovery, more than 30 years ago, it is known that these vesicles have multiple medical applications in the treatment of diseases such as cancer, precisely because of this role in remote communication.
Now, a group of researchers from the University of Naroya (Japan) has developed a new nanowire device capable of efficiently capturing these EVs for later use in the detection of cancer.
Takao Yasui, lead author of this project, explains that “EVs are potentially useful as clinical markers.The composition of the molecules contained in a VE can provide a diagnostic signature for certain diseases.”
One of the greatest advantages of this type of tests is that it is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that allows patients to be monitored on a regular basis, since urinalysis has become a common form of body analysis.
Great allies that harbor a ‘but’
Among the many molecules that have been found to harbor VE are micro RNAs, short pieces of ribonucleic acid that perform various functions in normal cell biology. However, the presence of certain micro RNAs in the urine can lead to the development of serious diseases in the bladder or prostate cancer.
Despite the great help that EVs offer for the diagnosis of cancer, there are still many technological obstacles that must be overcome. One of the ones that most needed this solution was, and in part still is, to find a feasible method to capture VE in sufficient quantities to analyze them in a routine clinical setting.
The content of VE in the urine is extremely low, less than 0.01% of the total volume of liquid. Therefore, the solution presented by Yasui’s team has been to incorporate zinc oxide nanowires in a specialized polymer to create a material that was highly efficient in capturing these vesicles . The results showed a collection rate of over 99%, surpassing other methods that are currently used in the field.
“Finding a specific and reproducible marker to help confirm a diagnosis of cancer is difficult, sometimes finding a single reliable micro RNA is considered a success.” With this approach, we were surprised to discover that not only one, but entire combinations of micro RNA could be associated with different types of cancer, “explains co-author of the research, Yoshinobu Baba.
The findings only mark the beginning of the research, but scientists hope the device can help lay the foundation for easier ways to diagnose diseases of this caliber.