Early stage detection of prostate cancer and HIV through naked eye; Research

Blood analysis (Credit: Micro test tube / Shutterstock)Scientists have developed a tool to detect viruses and diseases in the early stages with the help of naked eye.

This research has been done by researchers from the Imperial College London and published online in the journal of Nature Nanotechnology.

This tool is highly sensitive in detecting the diseases such as prostate cancer and infection by viruses including HIV.

In this study, researchers worked on the p24 biomarker in blood samples, which indicate HIV infection, and Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) biomarker, which is helpful in the early detection of Prostate cancer. Researchers said that the sensor could be reconfigured for other viruses and diseases. The sensor is able to detect serum in the blood in a disposable container. If the results for p24 or PSA are positive, the reaction generates irregular clumps of nanoparticles giving blue hue in the solution in the container and if the results are negative the nanoparticles separate into ball-like shapes giving reddish hue. Both of these colors can easily be seen through the naked eye.

According to the researchers, this visual sensor technology is ten times more sensitive than the present gold standard methods for measuring biomarkers. This sensor could detect minute levels of p24 in blood samples, which are not easily measured by existing methods such as the Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) test and the gold standard nucleic acid based test.

Researchers said that this technology could be of great benefit to the people in developing countries where advanced detection equipments are not present. Moreover, this technology is cheaper and simpler, and this could be the plus point for its use in developing countries.

Professor Molly Stevens, from the Departments of Materials and Bioengineering at Imperial College London, said:

“It is vital that patients get periodically tested in order to assess the success of retroviral therapies and check for new cases of infection. Unfortunately, the existing gold standard detection methods can be too expensive to be implemented in parts of the world where resources are scarce. Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation and it is ten times cheaper, which could allow more tests to be performed for better screening of many diseases.”

Dr Roberto de la Rica, co-author of the study from the Department of Materials at Imperial College London, added;

“We have developed a test that we hope will enable previously undetectable HIV infections and indicators of cancer to be picked up, which would mean people could be treated sooner. We also believe that this test could be significantly cheaper to administer, which could pave the way for more widespread use of HIV testing in poorer parts of the world.”


Roberto de la Rica & Molly M. Stevens, (2012). Plasmonic ELISA for the ultrasensitive detection of disease biomarkers with the naked eye. Nature Nanotechnology, doi:10.1038/nnano.2012.186


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