Researchers at the Riken Advanced Science Institute (Wako, Japan) have developed a power-free microfluidic chip that can quickly detect microRNAs (miRNAs) in minute volumes. MiRNA molecules have been identified as potential prognostic markers for prostate cancer. The development of this chip is described as a great step forward in early-stage point-of-care (POC) cancer diagnosis.
MicroRNAs are small, noncoding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression in a range of biological processes including development, cell proliferation, differentiation, and cell death (apoptosis). The progression of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s is reflected by an increased concentration of miRNA in body fluids. Conventional techniques for sensitive miRNA detection take days to reach a diagnosis and require the use of sophisticated equipment that only trained personnel can operate. By contrast, the envisaged POC device can be used in the home and will produce results in a matter of minutes.
The research team led by Riken chief scientist Mizuo Maeda made rapid and sensitive miRNA detection possible by developing a degassed poly(dimethylsiloxane)-based microfluidic device that can operate without an external power supply. MiRNA is detected by means of sandwich hybridization, and the signal is amplified through laminar flow–assisted dendritic technology. With this new device, miRNA molecules as small as 0.25 attomoles can be detected in only 20 minutes. The research has brought the possibility of early detection of cancer at home one step closer.
The research has been published in the online edition of PLoS ONE.
— Miki Anzai, Associate Editor