The more accurately healthcare providers can diagnose a disease, the greater the chance that the patient will survive. To that end, researchers at the Nano-Science Center of the University of Copenhagen have discovered a method that will make the process faster, cheaper, and more accurate. The team has combined advanced tools used in physics for research in biology at nanoscale, two scientific disciplines usually very distant from each other. The study is published in the journal Nanoscale.
Many diseases can be diagnosed using so-called biomarkers. There are substances, for example, that can be measured in a blood sample, which shows that the patient is suffering from the disease in question. These biomarkers are often proteins that are found in very small quantities in the blood, which makes detection difficult. By measuring the proteins, a diagnosis is more precise and many diseases can be spotted very early, before the patient develops severe symptoms.
A release from the University quotes researcher Katrine R. Rostgaard PHD as saying, “We have developed a method in which we optimize the analysis of the proteins. A central point of this method is the use of nanowires to hold the proteins while we analyze them.”
The new process is unique. Researchers normally use small plates to hold the proteins when they need to be analyzed, but by using nanowires, which are cylindrical structures having a diameter of about 1/1000th of a human hair, the scientists add a third dimension to the sample. The nanowires stand up like a little forest, creating a much greater surface area to hold the proteins because they can sit on all sides of the nanowire.
“With greater area, we can hold more proteins at once. This makes it possible to measure for multiple biomarkers simultaneously and it increases the signal, thereby providing a better quality of diagnosis,” Dr. Rostgaard said.