Inexpensive new field test for liver cancer can be administered anywhere

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah College of Engineering
A small domino-sized cartridge holds a membrane for a new field test for liver cancer developed by researchers from the University of Utah. The test doesn’t involve sending a specimen to a blood lab and cuts the wait time for results from two weeks to two minutes. It can be administered wherever the patient is, which will be valuable for developing nations with little access to hospitals.

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH RESEARCHERS DEVELOP FASTER, MORE ACCURATE TEST FOR LIVER CANCER THAT CAN BE ADMINISTERED ANYWHERE

It’s estimated that about 788,000 people worldwide died of liver cancer in 2015, the second-leading cause of cancer deaths, according to the latest statistics from the World Health Organization. One of the major challenges in combatting this disease is detecting it early because symptoms often don’t appear until later stages.

But a team of researchers led by University of Utah chemical engineering and chemistry professor Marc Porter and U surgeon and professor Courtney Scaife has developed a rapid portable screening test for liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) that doesn’t involve sending a specimen to a blood lab and cuts the wait time for results from two weeks to two minutes. This new and inexpensive test — the team is working to lower the cost to about $3 per test — can be administered wherever the patient is, which will be particularly valuable in developing nations with little access to hospitals.

The test uses a small domino-sized plastic cartridge containing a paper membrane that selectively traps biomarkers (proteins specific to a certain disease) from biological fluids. A small droplet of blood, saliva, or urine, or even a teardrop, from the patient is dropped onto the membrane. This is followed by the droplet of gold nanoparticles, which tags the biomarkers trapped in the membrane. If the biomarkers are present, a red spot appears, signaling the patient has the disease and should seek more testing and possible treatment.

“The concept is similar to a home pregnancy test, but instead of flowing laterally, it flows through the membrane,” says Granger, the lead author on the paper.

A handheld spectrometer manufactured by project collaborator B&W Tek, a Delaware-based manufacturer of mobile spectrometers, can analyze the membranes and measure how much of the biomarkers is present, which in the future could determine the severity of the disease or how a patient is responding to treatment.

The idea for the test is a spinoff of a similar test Porter developed eight years ago that astronauts on the International Space Station used to test the cleanliness of their drinking water. “This is a smarter offshoot of that,” says Porter, who also is the director of the Nano Institute of Utah.

Now that the team has proven the concept with liver cancer and built a prototype test kit, researchers plan to evaluate the technology in Mongolia in spring of 2019. The East Asian country has the highest rate of liver cancer in the world.

The project was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute through the Affordable Cancer Technologies Program and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The team also received funding from Utah-based nutritional supplement company USANA which is interested in using a form of the test for customers with certain vitamin deficiencies.

“USANA has a keen interest in the ability to measure certain vitamins and biomarkers in various bodily fluids that can be related to a person’s health status,” said Mark Brown, Executive Director of Laboratory Sciences at USANA.  “This would allow our customers to see for themselves the benefit of taking USANA’s high quality products. Rather than taking a blood sample and sending it off to lab for analysis, this technology could make it possible for people to do their own analysis in the comfort of their own home. Small sample size and simplicity of use are crucial components of making this a reality, and this research is a step closer to that end.”

Learn more: PUTTING IT TO THE TEST

 

The Latest on: Liver cancer

via Google News and Bing News

Researchers link absence of protein to liver tissue regeneration

UT Southwestern researchers who reported that inactivating a single protein-coding gene promotes tissue regeneration in mammals (l-r): Dr. Chao Xing, Mohammed Kanchwala, Dr. Hao Zhu, and Dr. Xuxu Sun.

UT Southwestern researchers who reported that inactivating a single protein-coding gene promotes tissue regeneration in mammals (l-r): Dr. Chao Xing, Mohammed Kanchwala, Dr. Hao Zhu, and Dr. Xuxu Sun.

Scientists at the  at UT Southwestern (CRI) report that inactivating a certain protein-coding gene promotes liver tissue regeneration in mammals.

“This research gives us ideas about new ways to treat liver damage or chronic liver disease,” said senior author Dr. Hao Zhu, an Assistant Professor at CRI with joint appointments in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. The study was published this week in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Tails in lizards and arms in starfish show an astounding ability to regrow, but mammals have partially lost the capacity to extensively regenerate body parts, Dr. Zhu said. The liver is unique among human solid organs in its robust regenerative capability. A healthy liver can regenerate up to 70 percent of its tissue after injury, he explained.

However, when the liver has been repeatedly damaged – by chemical toxins or chronic disease – it loses its ability to regenerate. Following repeated injuries, cirrhosis or scar tissue forms, greatly increasing the risk of cancer, said Dr. Zhu, who also treats liver cancer patients at Parkland Memorial Hospital. The Zhu laboratory studies both regeneration, when cells proliferate to repair an organ, and cancer, when cells proliferate out of control.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that liver cancer deaths increased at the highest rate of all common cancers from 2003-2012. In addition to cirrhosis, risk factors for liver cancer include infections caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), liver damage from alcohol or other toxins, chronic liver disease, and certain rare genetic disorders.

Dr. Zhu began his investigation by studying a mouse that lacked Arid1a, the mouse version of a gene associated with some human cancers.

“In humans, the gene ARID1A is mutated in several cancers, including liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer, the list goes on,” Dr. Zhu said. “It is not mutated in every type of cancer, but in a significant number. Those mutations are found in 10 to 20 percent of all cancers, and the mutations render the gene inactive.”

Based on this association, the researchers hypothesized that mice lacking Arid1a would develop liver damage and, eventually, liver cancer. They were surprised when the opposite proved to be the case – no liver damage occurred. In fact, livers of the mice regenerated faster and appeared to function better, he added.

“The livers were resistant to tissue damage and healed better, which are two good things – like playing offense and defense at the same time,” he said. “These results opened up a whole new avenue of investigation for us, and through that investigation we found a new function for this gene.”

On observation, livers in the mice without the gene appeared healthier. Blood tests confirmed improved liver function. When researchers deleted the gene in mice with various liver injuries, they found that the livers replaced tissue mass quicker and showed reduced fibrosis in response to chemical injury. Also, other tissues such as wounded skin healed faster inArid1a-deficient mice.

No drugs are currently available to mimic a lack of this protein, although the researchers are using a grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to search for one.

“We want to identify small molecules that mimic the effect of these genetic findings. The ideal drug would be one that helps the liver heal while inhibiting the development of cancer. That would be the perfect drug for my patients,” said Dr. Zhu, a CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research.

Dr. Zhu said loss of the gene and the protein it expresses may accelerate regeneration by reorganizing how genes are packaged in the genome so that the cells can more easily switch back and forth toward a more regenerative state, sort of like a toggle switch.

“Somehow, loss of this gene seems to make it easier for the cell to go back and forth,” he said. “This study opens up new areas to investigate how to rejuvenate tissues without necessarily increasing cancer risk, although many more tests will have to be done to determine how the risk of all types of liver cancers are altered.”

Learn more: CRI researchers link absence of protein to liver tissue regeneration

 

 

The Latest on: Tissue regeneration

via  Bing News

 

Liver cancer vaccine effective in mice

This is Dr. Yukai He, immunologist at the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Regents University Cancer Center. Credit: Phil Jones

This is Dr. Yukai He, immunologist at the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Regents University Cancer Center. Credit: Phil Jones

 Tweaking a protein expressed by most liver cancer cells has enabled scientists to make a vaccine that is exceedingly effective at preventing the disease in mice.

Alpha-Fetoprotein, or AFP – normally expressed during development and by liver cancer cells as well – has escaped attack in previous vaccine iterations because the body recognizes it as “self,” said Dr. Yukai He, immunologist at the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Regents University Cancer Center.

Liver cancer is among the fastest-growing and deadliest cancers in the United States with a 17 percent three-year survival rate. Vaccines help direct the immune system to attack invaders by showing it a representative substance, called an antigen, that the body will recognize as foreign, in this case, AFP for liver cancer.

Read more . . .

 

The Latest on: Liver cancer

via  Bing News