In a study published in ACS Sensors, a team of researchers described how they develop a method to recognize a particular mutation in the genetic code of a cancerous cell.
If cancers are caught early enough in the cell mutation process, many of them can be stopped with chemotherapy and other forms of treatment. This new method could aid in early diagnosis and help researchers develop individualized treatments, according to the team.
Traditionally, cancer driver mutations are detected using real-time PCR, which selectively amplifies and copies mutant DNA sequences. But the technique is not accurate enough to reliably detect changes in the genetic code, the team reported. Researchers have also developed techniques to read a cell’s genetic sequence by passing it through a nanopore, but it is also not accurate enough by itself.
To remedy this problem, a team of researchers developed a “nanolock-nanopore” sensor. A nanolock stabilizes base pairs of DNA at a mutation site as it passes through a nanopore. Mutant DNA carrying a nanolock unzips in a unique way when it goes through the pore, according to team, leaving behind a highly accurate fingerprint.
The researchers were able to detect this marking for a mutation in the BRAF gene, which has been associated with a variety of cancers, including thyroid cancer.
The team reported that, combined with a miniature device, the detection method could allow for accurate, PCR-free detection of an array of disease-causing mutations.