The key to defeating cancer is early detection. At present, a new study conducted by the University of South Carolina and Nanjing University in China has taken another step towards the early detection of disease. The team of chemists reported a new method that can detect only a few latent tumor cells. These latent tumor cells are in a small number in the blood, and the ratio to healthy cells is only 1: 1 billion.

The researchers constructed an ultra-sensitive nanoprobe that can detect a few of four circulating tumor cells by electrochemical methods without the need for any enzymes to produce a detectable signal .

Hui Wang, a chemist at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina, led the research with Qian Wang, a colleague from South Carolina, and Professor Zhu Junjie from Nanjing University. Their research results show that the sensitivity of this probe to pH and temperature is far lower than the traditional method of improving sensitivity-natural horseradish peroxidase.

Cancer can be metastasized by releasing tumor cells, which can spread the disease to new parts of the body. However, these circulating cells also represent an excellent opportunity for modern medicine: detecting them in patients is a clear sign of tumors.

However, circulating tumor cells are difficult to find. Out of a billion blood cells, only one cell may be a circulating tumor cell that triggers an alarm.

The enzyme-free detection system is based on the electrochemical properties of Fe3O4 nanoparticles. We have known since 2007 that this system simulates the peroxide-reducing power of horseradish peroxidase. The research team was surprised to find that even in the absence of hydrogen peroxide, the nanoparticles can catalyze the electrochemical reduction of small dye molecules such as thionine.

The research team published the relevant research results in the recent well-known chemical journal "Journal of the American Chemical Society", the first author is Zheng Tingting of the University of South Carolina and Nanjing University. In the paper, the researchers described how they used Fe3O4 beads modified with bimetal nanocages to prepare a mixed catalyst. Circulating tumor cells are trapped on the surface of an electrode containing cell-targeting ligands, and these trapped circulating cells can be detected by thionine cyclic voltammetry. The system has a wide linear response range, and its detection limit can be as few as a few cells.

Although this device cannot be used in clinics yet, Wang can see the potential of this robust inorganic nanoprobe. He said: "We can quantify the biomarkers expressed in cancer cells, and because the expression levels of cancer cells are completely different from normal cells, we can actually identify cancer cells. Because the sensitivity of this probe is very high, so , Even if you have low-abundance cancer cells in your body, we should be able to detect them. "

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