A novel nanowire device that is able to non-invasively detect microscopic levels of cancer markers in the urine, has been developed by Japanese researchers and could aid in improving diagnosis and treatment of the deadly disease.
The device was found with the potential to efficiently capture extracellular vesicles (EVs) from urine and potentially use them to screen for cancer.
"The ongoing challenge for physicians in any field is to find a non-invasive diagnostic tool that allows them to monitor their patients on a regular basis -- for example, a simple urine test," said lead author Takao Yasui, from the Nagoya University in Japan.
However, the content of EVs in urine is extremely low, at less than 0.01 per cent of the total fluid volume, which becomes a major barrier to their diagnostic utility.
The new device -- embedded with zinc oxide nanowires into a specialised polymer -- was found highly efficient at capturing these vesicles.
"Our findings suggest that the device is indeed quite efficient. We obtained a collection rate of over 99 per cent, surpassing ultracentrifugation as well as other methods that are currently being used in the field," Yasui added.
Using the device, the scientists were able to get over a thousand types of microRNAs, which are short pieces of ribonucleic acid that play diverse roles in normal cellular biology.
The presence of certain microRNAs in urine might serve as a red flag for serious conditions such as bladder and prostate cancer, the study reported in Science Advances showed.
To test the device, the team compared the microRNAs of EVs isolated from healthy patients with those isolated from patients who were already diagnosed with bladder, prostate, and other forms of cancer.
Compared with the standard approach, they found a substantially greater number and different types of microRNAs with just 1 millilitre of urine, the researchers said.