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article imageNew DNA tool for cancer detection

By Tim Sandle     May 13, 2014 in Science
Bioengineers have used DNA to develop a tool that detects and reacts to chemical changes caused by cancer cells and that may one day be used to deliver drugs to tumor cells.
A research group have developed a nanosensor that measures pH variations in molecules (that is how acidic [a higher pH level] or alkaline [a lower pH level] is). Many biomolecules, such as enzymes and proteins, are strongly regulated by small pH changes. These changes affect in turn biological activities such as enzyme catalysis, protein assembly, membrane function, and cell death. There is also a strong relation between cancer and pH.
Cancer cells often display a lower pH compared to normal cells: the pH level inside cancer cells is higher than it is outside. Based on this, the researchers have developed a tool for earlier cancer detection. Researchers have proposed that the acidic pH of the tumor microenvironment represents a "niche engineering" strategy on the part of tumor cells, promoting invasion and growth of malignant tumors into surrounding tissue.
The basis of the nanosensor is DNA; this is by taking advantage of a specific DNA sequences that form pH-sensitive triple helix.
The research was carried out at the University of Rome Tor Vergata and the University of Montreal.
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