A simple and sensitive urine test developed by Imperial and MIT engineers has altered the color of urine to indicate increased tumors in mice.

Devices that detect cancer at an early stage can increase patient survival and quality of life. However, cancer screening methods often require expensive equipment and clinic visits, which is not possible in rural or developing areas with little medical infrastructure.

Thus, the field of diagnosis of emerging care points makes cheaper, faster and easier to use tests.

A couple of international engineering laboratories continue this approach and develop a device that alters the color of mouse urine when colon cancer, also known as bowel cancer.

The results are published in Nature Nanotechnology

Developed by teams led by Professor Emby Molly Stevens and an MIT professor, Sangeeta Bhatia, the early-stage technique works by injecting nanoscale sensors into mice, cut by an enzyme released by tumors known as proteases.

When nanosensors from proteases break down, they pass through the kidneys, and can be seen with the naked eye after a urine test that results in a change in blue.

The researchers used the technique on mice with colon cancer, and found that the urine from tumor-bearing mice turns bright blue, relative to test samples taken by healthy mice.

“By taking advantage of this chemical reaction that produces color changes, this test can be managed without the need for expensive laboratory equipment that is difficult to use,” said Professor Stevens of the Imperial Departments of Materials and Bioengineering.

“Simple readings are likely to be captured by a smartphone image and transmitted to remote caregivers to link patients to treatment.”

Sensor signals

When tumors grow and spread, they often produce biological signals known as biomarkers that doctors use to detect and track disease.

A group of tumor enzymes known as protein matrix (MMPs) help promote tumor growth and spread by “chewing” tissue scaffolds that usually put cells in place.

Many cancers, including colon tumors, produce high levels of many MMP enzymes, including one called MMP9.

In this study, the Imperial-MIT team developed nanosensors where very small gold nanoscale lectures were attached to a protein carrier called neutravidin, via broken bonds by MMP9S

To develop a color-changing urine test, the researchers used the properties of AUNC – its very small size (<nm), and its ability to change blue when dealing with a chemical substrate and hydrogen peroxide.

Researchers designed the AuNc protein complexes after harvested by MMPs in a tumor or blood environment.

When disassembled and separated, the absorbent joints pass through the blood to the kidneys, where they are small enough to filter through the urine.

In healthy mice that do not have high levels of MMP, the complexes remain intact, and are too large to pass through the urine.

If AUNC is concentrated in the urine, the chemical test will result in a change in blue that is visible to the naked eye.

In this study, the researchers developed sensors that were cut by specialized MMPs and tested in mice.

The researchers demonstrated that their color change test could detect that in a study of 28 mice injected with sensors, urine samples came from the colon’s mice, with 14 healthy mice and 14 colon tumors. she was.

Within half an hour of chemotherapy, only urine from mice with colon tumors had a strong blue color. In contrast, there was no change in the urine color of healthy control mice.

The team also designed the AuNc surfaces to prevent the immune system or toxic side effects from being “ignored” by the immune system and to prevent abundant serum proteins from sticking to them, leaving the nanoscale sensor too small to filter by the kidneys. I’ll grow up.

During the four-week follow-up after administration of the nanosensor sensor, the mice showed no signs of side effects, and there was no evidence that the mice had a protein sensor complex or free cups in the body.

The first co-author of the Imperial Materials Department, Drs. Colin Lonashan said: “AUNCS imaging is similar to materials already used in the clinic for oncology, but here we are exploiting their unique characteristics to provide additional information about the disease.

However, outside the technology lab there is still a lot of customization and testing needed before growth.”

Easy diagnosis

Subsequently, the team increased the specificity and sensitivity of the probe by testing more animal models to verify diagnostic accuracy and safety.