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Research review bolsters nanoarchitecture material as quick, effective and inexpensive cancer detection

A team of Griffith University researchers have highlighted a way to potentially detect cancers and other diseases that is quicker, more accurate and less expensive than current detection methods.

The team has published a high impact review article in the prestigious Cell Press journal Trends in Biochemical Sciences (TiBS), following a series of previous studies highlighted widely in media where the team reported a low-cost way of detecting cancer in early stages using a new class of magnetic nanomaterials.

The review paper ‘Nanoarchitecture frameworks for electrochemical miRNA detection’ was led by Griffith scientists at the Queensland Micro- and Nanotechnology Centre (QMNC) and School of Environment and Science (ESC) and included researchers from Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), the University of Queensland (UQ).

Dr Muhammad Shiddiky, who led the project, said the team reviewed current knowledge of RNA biology and how a special type of RNA termed as microRNAs (or miRNAs), played a vital role in cancer and other diseases.

“The main focus of our article is to provide a comprehensive overview of recent developments in state-of-the-art methodologies and technologies that use specially engineered nanomaterials for detection of miRNAs,” Dr Shiddiky said.

Billions of dollars are being spent trying to build technologies that can detect cancer at early stages but the problem that many clinics face is finding a cheap, quick and accurate method of doing so.

Novel nanomaterials could offer a way to circumvent all these challenges, the authors said, hence the need to have a compendium of recent developments in this field that could guide and inspire aspiring researchers.

Nanomaterial revolution has brought considerable improvements in a diverse range of sectors. From movement energy harvesting smart fabrics, to lightweight aircrafts, from faster booting computers to sensitive and cheaper medical diagnostic platforms, the applications of engineered nanomaterials are immense.

This new review article is yet another significant contribution by Griffith scientists in their quest towards real-life translation of fundamental discoveries, such as the cancer detection platforms being developed at Shiddiky lab.

Explaining how nanomaterials may revolutionise disease diagnostics, Dr Shiddiky cited the example of special nanoparticles that his group and collaborators have invented.

“These nanomaterials could be added to samples directly and made to ‘look’ for disease biomarkers such as miRNAs. Once the disease molecules have been ‘captured’ by the nanomaterial, they can be easily moved and separated from blood or bodily fluids using a simple magnet,” he said.

“Nanomaterials could capture the disease molecules in the blood or bodily fluid with the same force that we use to stick paper to a fridge with a magnet.

“What we have done is target nanomaterials and electrochemistry. Electrochemistry gives you a very inexpensive way of detecting these molecules.”

“A lot of enzymes and expensive biological kits are needed in conventional bioassays. Our nanomaterials work in the same way as the enzymes but limits the costs involved,” Professor Yusuke Yamauchi from UQ said.

“The nanomaterial could be engineered according to the need – for detecting a certain disease type. This nanomaterial is so flexible it can be tuned for almost any kind of biological molecules and used to target specific diseases.

It’s a nano-architectured tool which can be easily tailored to monitor not only human, but also animal and plant health.”

“The potentials of nanomaterials in diagnostics are immense,” Dr Shiddiky said. “We are now actively looking for industry partners to facilitate the market delivery of our inventions.”