Mesothelioma lawyers announce that researchers at NYU recently developed a biosensor and method to detect pleural mesothelioma. A protein referred to as HAPLN1 is significantly over-expressed in mesothelioma patients, and scientists recently discovered new ways to detect this protein in the blood serum of high-risk patients.
Mesothelioma, more than almost any other type of cancer, is resistant to and unaffected by traditional cancer treatments. Survival rates and therapy possibilities significantly increase when the disease is detected in its early states, although, because mesothelioma takes decades to develop, and often manifests through insidious symptoms, the cancer is not typically diagnosed until its third or fourth stage. This contributes in no small part to the cancer’s extraordinarily low prognosis – mesothelioma patients are expected to live no longer than one year after their initial diagnosis.
Researchers detected HAPLN1 using an electrochemical surface-imprinting method, and initially optimized the method using Bovine serum albumin (BSA). This is a protein derived from cows, which NYU scientists used as a model to mimic the conditions required to imprint the HAPLN1.
HAPLN1 is a specific kind of protein that presents a target for disease monitoring and reflection. If changes in HAPLN1 can be detected, such as any over-expression, it could lead doctors to test for mesothelioma before any symptoms even begin to manifest in patients.
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Current biomarkers for early mesothelioma detection include mesothelin and soluble mesothelin related peptide. HAPLN1 is a cartilage link protein, and is known to be over-expressed even in stage one mesothelioma, along with the biomarker osteopontin (OPN1), which is located in the same gene set as HAPLN1. There is a significant need for the development of cost effective methods for biomarker detection in patient serum and tissues, as the methods currently on market (called ELISA tests) are extremely time consuming and expensive, limiting the scope of which they can be used.
The new technologies are able to detect the boilermakers in very low concentrations, which is crucial in catching the disease early and consequently for saving that patient’s life. ELISA tests for HAPLN1 would cost about $10 a kit, while an imprinted sensor chip, such as the one used by these researchers, would cost only about $1.20 per kit, and can be used for more than one assay.
The imprinted sensor chip, also called an electrode, does not require any expensive technology for biomarker synthesis. Researchers used a specific binding approach to imprint to HAPLN1 biomarker that was developed by Gunter Wulff in 1972. They then tested the specificity of the imprints by proving that a smaller protein does not bind to them.
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During the study, 20 micrograms of HAPLN1 protein was dissolved in a clean glass container in de-ionized water. Three gold electrodes were then dipped into the solution for 12 hours and then rinsed thoroughly. Three of these electrodes were studied to verify the response after detection. Two experiments showed a drastic change in the disease potential at very low HAPLN1 concentrations. Researchers used BSA samples as a control, because it is about the same size as HAPLN1. The experiment was then conducted on samples with HAPLN1-spiked serum. The imprinted electrodes in the serum had a remarkable potential HAPLN1 concentration.
Ultimately, the molecular imprinting biosensor was successfully built to detect low concentrations of HAPLN1 in serum and buffer solution. Researchers note that the observed high HAPLN1 expression may lead to new therapy treatments for various types of ailments, from cancer to lymph node conditions. The study was funded by an army grant, though the funder had no role in the study’s design, data collection, analysis, publishing, or in preparation of the manuscript.
Mesothelioma, like asbestosis, is caused exclusively by exposure to asbestos, which is a fibrous mineral used most often in the construction, automotive, and shipbuilding industries. The mineral was banned in the U.S. in 1979, however, it is still present in homes, vehicles, ships, and commercial buildings throughout the country.