and Medicine for Seniors
Prostate Cancer, Kidney Disease Detected on Spot by
Study looked at prostate cancer and kidney disease,
same method could be a diagnostic tool for other diseases
Oct. 28, 2014 - When you flush the toilet, you may
be discarding microscopic warning signs about your health. But a
cunningly simple new device can stop that vital information from “going
to waste.” It can detect markers of kidney disease and prostate cancer
in a few minutes.
All you have to do is drop a sample into a tiny
tube and see how far it goes, according to Brigham Young University
chemist Adam Woolley, who made the device with the help of his students.
That’s because the tube is lined with DNA sequences
that will latch onto disease markers and nothing else. Urine from
someone with a clean bill of health would flow freely through the tube -
the farther, the better. But even at ultra-low concentrations, the DNA
grabs enough markers to slow the flow and signal the presence of
“In a disease state, this particular marker is
equal to about one billionth of a percent of the content of urine.”
Woolley said. “We can detect close to those levels. If we can get below
that, it would give us better sensitivity for somebody at an early stage
of the disease.”
Grad students Debolina Chatterjee and Danielle
Mansfield co-authored the study for the journal
Analytical Methods using
synthetic urine samples. The next step is to do human trials with this
“lab on a chip.”
The method holds several advantages over current
tests for prostate cancer: No blood draws, instant results and
potentially higher accuracy.
Men who get their blood screened for a prostate
specific antigen are really only learning whether their prostate is
enlarged, and sometimes cancer is the cause.
But the BYU device works only when there is an
exact match to a disease marker that is 22 RNA bases long. Harmless
material that closely resembles the disease marker doesn’t sound a false
“The flow distance is about 20 to 40 millimeters
longer if just one of those 22 letters is wrong,” Woolley said.
Although the new study specifically looked at
prostate cancer and kidney disease, this same method could be used to
make a diagnostic tool for other diseases.
“In a urine sample there can be millions of
different sequences of micro-RNA and what we need to do is find the ones
related to a disease,” Woolley said.