Issue Date: July 25, 2011
Fishing For Biomarkers
Many potential biomarkers evade discovery because their concentrations are too low for current technology to detect. Emanuel F. Petricoin III, Lance A. Liotta, and coworkers at George Mason University are developing separation and purification methods to concentrate low-abundance biomarkers.
“We see hundreds and hundreds of low-abundance biomarkers in the blood that were never known to exist,” Liotta says. “There really is a diagnostic gold mine out there.”
After the publication of their 2002 Lancet paper on ovarian cancer biomarkers, Petricoin and Liotta were inspired to develop technology that would make it easier to identify other candidate biomarkers.
They quickly realized that many potential biomarkers are bound to albumin or other carrier proteins in the blood. Often, the concentration of albumin is billions of times greater than the concentration of the markers of interest.
They designed nanoparticles to collect and concentrate low-abundance biomarkers while getting rid of most of the albumin. These porous, sievelike nanoparticles contain chemical “bait” molecules in their core and a separate shell that separates the biomarkers from albumin, concentrates them, and protects them from degradation. The nanoparticles can be combined with any downstream analytical method, including immunoassays and mass spectrometry.
Petricoin and Liotta cofounded Ceres Nanosciences, located in Manassas, Va., to commercialize the technology. They have 24 baits that are sensitive to different classes of proteins and can even pull proteins off albumin. They are using the technology to discover biomarkers in serum samples obtained via a collaboration with Italian cancer centers.
- Chemical & Engineering News
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