The moment when healthy cells turn into cancer cells is a critical point. And if caught early enough, many cancers can be stopped in their tracks. One group reports in ACS Sensors that they have developed an accurate and sensitive method that can recognize a particular mutation in the genetic code that has been implicated in the disease. It could help physicians diagnose cancers earlier and treat them with individualized therapies.
Cancer driver mutations assist in the initiation and progression of cancer. One such mutation in the BRAF gene has been associated with numerous cancers, including thyroid cancer. The current method for detecting driver mutations is real-time PCR, in which mutant DNA sequences are selectively amplified and copied, but it is not accurate enough to detect these genetic changes reliably.
Researchers have developed methods to read the genetic sequence by moving it through a nanopore, but again, the method is not nearly accurate enough on its own. So, Li-Qun Gu and colleagues sought a way to better pinpoint these mutations, and with single-molecule resolution, building on their previous work developing a "nanolock-nanopore" sensor.