Researchers at Ames Laboratory Develop a Unique Biosensor Chip to Detect Cancer


When carcinogens enter the body and are activated, they can react with DNA to form DNA adducts, chemical compounds in which the carcinogen is attached to the DNA. If the body’s natural defense systems do not properly repair the DNA damage caused by these adducts, the result can be the birth of cancerous cells. A reliable way to assess cancer is to keep track of DNA adducts formed in human cell. Drs. Small and Jankowiak, from Ames Laboratory, have developed an innovative technique for detecting DNA adducts in urine. The newly developed biosensor chip is simple to operate and potentially more practical than previously developed methods. The biosensor technology is based on a unique gold chip that can be used to detect fluorescent DNA adducts (adducts that emit light when excited by a laser). Bound to the chip’s surface are special antibodies that selectively bind specific DNA adducts. With the new biosensor chip technology, scientists could test for the presence of specific cancer causing adducts in a sample of urine by simply dipping the biochip containing the corresponding antibody into processed urine. The adducts of interest would bind to the antibody and fluoresce when scanned with a laser beam. This technology has the potential for making it easier and less expensive to identify cancer-causing chemicals in the body, giving physicians an early warning sign before the cancer begins to grow and spread. This research is support by the BER Advanced Medical Instrumentation Program.