Changes in the genetic make-up of tissue samples can be detected quickly and easily using a new method based on nanotechnology. This report researchers from the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel in first clinical tests with genetic mutations in patients with malignant melanoma. The journal Nano Letters has published the study.
According to estimates by the American Skin Cancer Foundation, today more people develop skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer together. Although malignant melanoma accounts for only about 5 percent of skin cancers, these are the most serious cases and can result in death.
Around half of all patients who develop malignant melanoma exhibit a particular genetic change (mutation). This involves a change in the BRAF gene (B gene for Rapid Acceleration of Fibrosarcoma) that leads to uncontrolled cell proliferation.
There are now drugs that exploit these specific mutations and fight the cancer, significantly extending patients’ life expectancy. However, they work only if the corresponding genetic mutation is actually present. Where it is not, they give rise to severe side effects without producing the desired effect.
“It is therefore essential that we are able to identify the mutations reliably in tissue samples. That is the only way of ensuring that patients get the right treatment and successful outcomes,” explains the paper’s co-author, Professor Katharina Glatz of the Institute of Pathology at University Hospital Basel.
In a clinical pilot study, the team led by Professor Ernst Meyer and Professor Christoph Gerber at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute and the Department of Physics at Basel University used nanosensors for the first time to detect the mutations in tissue samples from patients with malignant melanoma. To do so, the researchers employed tiny cantilevers that were coated in different ways. Some of them carried a recognition sequence for the mutation the researchers were targeting.
Then genetic material (RNA) from the patients’ tissue samples was isolated and applied to the cantilevers. If the genetic change is present, the patient’s RNA binds to the recognition sequence on the cantilever. The resulting surface stress leads to bending of the cantilever, which can be measured. If the mutation is absent from the RNA sample, this bending does not occur – in other words, only a specific binding produces a signal. The advantage of using nanocantilevers is that no time-consuming procedures are needed. It takes less than a day to move from performing the biopsy to diagnosis.
Unthinkable 30 years ago
In this study, the Basel research team was able to demonstrate that nanomechanical microcantilevers can identify mutations in complex mixtures of total RNA isolated from tissue samples. At first, cantilevers were used only in atomic force microscopes. Professor Christoph Gerber – who is due to receive the Kavli Prize in Oslo on 6 September, together with Gerd Binnig and Cal Quate, for developing the atomic force microscope – observes: “Thirty years ago, we weren’t able to foresee that our technology might one day be used in hospital for personalized medicine – ‘from the bench to the bedside’, as it were.”
François Huber, Hans Peter Lang, Katharina Glatz, Donata Rimoldi, Ernst Meyer, and Christoph Gerber
Fast Diagnostics of BRAF Mutations in Biopsies from Malignant Melanoma
Nano Letters (2016), doi: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.6b01513
• Dr. François Huber, University of Basel, Department of Physics, Tel. +41 61 207 37 69, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Prof. Dr. Christoph Gerber, University of Basel, Department of Physics, Tel. +41 61 207 37 37, E-Mail: email@example.com
Reto Caluori | Universität Basel
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences