A recent study from Nagoya University has shown that microRNAs in urine may be promising biomarkers for detecting brain tumors.
MicroRNAs are a class of small, single-stranded non-coding ribonucleic acids that are unique to eukaryotic cells. They are secreted by a variety of cells and are found in biological fluids such as urine and blood.
Brain tumors are difficult to diagnose at an early stage, as affected individuals undergo tests such as CT (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) only after the onset of neurological disturbances, such as difficulty in moving or speaking. Unfortunately, at this stage the tumor has often grown too large to be completely removed. Accurate, easy and inexpensive methods are therefore needed to detect it before it is too late.
MicroRNAs have come to the attention of scientists as possible indicators of cancerous tumors. Therefore, in a study published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces the scientists proposed urine analysis, which has the advantage of being easy to perform, as a means of detection. This technique had not been thoroughly explored before because the methods were not effective, in terms of variety and efficiency, for extracting microRNAs from urine. Therefore, the researchers had to develop a device that could do this.
The microRNA extraction device
The new device they have created is equipped with 100 million zinc oxide nanowires, which can be sterilized and mass-produced, making them suitable for medical use. They can extract a larger and more varied amount of microRNA from patients than conventional methods.
Using this new technique, they proved that microRNAs can be used effectively as biomarkers by comparing urine samples from patients with and without brain tumors. The results showed that the device distinguished between sick and healthy people with a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 97%, regardless of the malignancy and size of the tumors.
The researchers hope that their discovery will help to quickly diagnose aggressive forms of brain cancer, such as glioblastoma. Dr. Natsume, one of the study’s authors, is pleased with the breakthrough: “In the future, through the combined use of artificial intelligence and telemedicine, people will be able to detect the presence of cancer, while doctors will be able to know the status of sufferers with just a small daily sample of their urine. ”