New Nanoparticles Detect Multiple Cancer Biomarkers without Biopsy


Nanoparticles are used to detect disease biomarkers / Photo by


Nanoparticles can be used as detectors of disease biomarkers, but they can only detect one disease at a time. At Macquarie University, scientists found a way to enhance the particles to identify multiple biomarkers.

The nanoparticles they developed are similar to other studies where the said particles react to light to recognize biomarkers in the human body. These are typically placed in biological samples or injected into particular sites of the patient’s body, and then exposed to light. The biomarkers are then used by clinicians to find signs of abnormalities or illnesses such as cancer.

“Detection of multiple biomarkers (known as multiplexing) in the body has been a major challenge for researchers. The tissue environment is extremely complex - full of light absorbing and scattering elements such as blood, muscle, and cartilage,” stated Dr. Yiqing Lu of the ARC Center of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics at Macquarie University.

When multiple nanoparticles have been introduced in one site, they operate at different wavelengths to identify biomarkers that cause high levels of interference, which makes accuracy detection difficult. To solve this problem, they constructed nanoparticles that generate light at the same frequency or near-infrared light. The new nanoparticles can do the task if set for specific periods of time, ranging from microseconds to milliseconds.

The technology managed the luminescence lifetime, the duration of the emission of light, and the reaction of the biomarkers to the timed amount of light. When they tested the nanoparticles in the laboratory, the scientists obtained multiple detectable forms of breast cancer tumors in mice models. The tiny particles were able to identify and recognize multiple subtypes of the disease.

The scientists foresee potential on the new nanoparticles to provide a low invasive diagnostic method to detect breast cancer without the need of a biopsy.