Science & Nature

Molecular biosensor throws light on cancer detection

Indian scientists find sugar-coated pouches in body fluids can help detect cancer

With incidences of cancer still remaining high, it has become imperative that early detection is a must so as to find means to treat the dreaded illness. Indian scientists have found a breakthrough in cancer detection with the development of a new molecular biosensor.

The development of the new molecular biosensor comes courtesy of Dr. Tatini Rakshit Laboratory, which is supported by the Inspire faculty grant of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), at Shiv Nadar Institute of Eminence, Delhi. The unravelling of the contour lengths of Hyaluronan on a single cancer cell-derived extracellular vesicles’ surface was done in collaboration with S. N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences (SNBNCBS), Kolkata, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata and IIT Bhilai, Chhatisgarh.

The study by the scientists involved has appeared in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, and the findings prove the effect the sugar-coated pouches have in increasing the risk of cancer progression.

Cancer cells secrete more extracellular vesicles

It has been pointed out that the detection of the cancer microenvironment could prove to be an easier task with the help of this molecular biosensor. Experts have pointed out that cancer cells have the ability to secrete small pouches, medically termed extracellular vesicles, which come covered with sugar molecules Hyaluronan. These are directly linked to tumour malignancy and are considered potential biomarkers for early diagnosis of colon cancer.

These extracellular vesicles are many in body fluids such as blood, and faeces. All types of cells secrete these extracellular vesicles into the extracellular matrix. Cancer cells secrete at least two times more extracellular vesicles into the body fluids than normal cells. Therefore, these extracellular vesicles could be isolated non-invasively from a patient’s body for early cancer diagnosis.

Sugar molecule Hyaluronan and its cancer link

The sugar molecule Hyaluronan associated with these cancer extracellular vesicles carries danger signals in tumour progression when it gets fragmented by hyaluronidases (Hyals) and reactive oxygen species in pathological conditions.

Scientists involved in the study have proved that a single cancer cell-derived extracellular vesicle comes coated with very short chain Hyaluronan molecules using single molecule techniques and elucidated that these short-chain Hyaluronan-coated extracellular vesicle are significantly more elastic than the normal cell-derived ones.

According to the Department of Science and Technology, this intrinsic elasticity of Hyaluronan -coated extracellular vesicles in cancer helps them to withstand multiple external forces during extracellular transportation, uptake, excretion by cells, and adhesion to cell surfaces.

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Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The New Indian Express, MSN India, PanAsiaBiz. Sanjeev can be reached at [email protected]

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