Subscribe to Newsletter
Diagnostics Biochemistry and molecular biology, Liquid biopsy, Oncology, Technology and innovation

Move Over, Mammography, There’s a New Biosensor in Town

Mammography is currently the gold standard technique for detecting breast cancer; however, radiation exposure coupled with low sensitivity and specificity leave a gaping hole in the diagnostic landscape. Recognizing this need, a team of researchers have developed a prototype biosensor to challenge current diagnostic standards for one of the most common types of cancer – and one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths – in women (1).

“In this scenario, we focused on the detection of a certain microRNA (miR-99a-5p) in plasma,” says Ramón Martínez-Máñez, an author on the study. “In fact, several authors have evidenced the relevance of circulating miRNAs in plasma as minimally invasive biomarkers for the prognosis and diagnosis of different types of cancers, including breast cancer. Nowadays, the detection of circulating miRNAs is mainly assessed in laboratories through quantitative real-time PCR, which is a time-consuming and complex technique.”

To be able to detect such biomarkers in fluids can help pathologists detect a tumor in its earliest stages.

How does the biosensor work? Martínez-Máñez says, “The biosensor is based in nanoporous anodic alumina. This alumina contains quite a large amount of nanopores of about 20–30 nm. The pores are loaded with a dye (rhodamine B) and capped with an oligonucleotide that blocks cargo release. In the presence of miR-99a-5p, the capping oligonucleotide recognizes the miR-99a-5p sequence and displaces – allowing the release of the encapsulated dye, which is easily detected with a fluorimeter.”

Though there is still a long way to go before pathologists will see the biosensor in routine practice – it is currently being validated with a large number of samples by the team – Martínez-Máñez highlights the impact it will have when the time does come. He says, “The concept of detecting circulating biomarkers in blood samples is related to the concept of liquid biopsy that aims to use a simple, noninvasive analysis for disease diagnosis. To be able to detect such biomarkers in fluids can help pathologists detect a tumor in its earliest stages, more easily control the efficacy of a certain treatment, and quickly detect relapses.”

Receive content, products, events as well as relevant industry updates from The Pathologist and its sponsors.
Stay up to date with our other newsletters and sponsors information, tailored specifically to the fields you are interested in

When you click “Subscribe” we will email you a link, which you must click to verify the email address above and activate your subscription. If you do not receive this email, please contact us at [email protected].
If you wish to unsubscribe, you can update your preferences at any point.

  1. I Garrido-Cano et al., ACS Sens, 6, 1022 (2021). PMID: 33599490.
About the Author
Liv Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

Register to The Pathologist

Register to access our FREE online portfolio, request the magazine in print and manage your preferences.

You will benefit from:
  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts
  • Receive print (and PDF) copies of The Pathologist magazine