Processing Magazine

Researchers discover early warning sign for lung cancer

September 16, 2011

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Researchers at the University of Missouri have made a discovery that could provide an early warning signal for lung cancer, according to a press release.

MU researchers used blood plasma samples to detect a change in a specific small ribonucleic acid (microRNA) molecule that is often elevated in lung cancer patients.

The scientists put an extract of blood plasma through a protein-based nanopore, which is a tiny hole in a thin membrane that is just big enough for a single molecule to pass through.

By applying an ionic current to the nanopore, the scientists measured changes in the current that occur when the microRNA molecule associated with lung cancer is present.

“That altered current acts as a signal or bio-signature that is related to lung cancer,” said Li-Qun Gu, PhD, an associate professor of biological engineering at MU and a corresponding author for the study. “Our new nanopore sensor is selective and sensitive enough to detect microRNAs at the single molecular level in plasma samples from lung cancer patients.”

The study was recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.