The biosensor detects the presence of cancer through a blood test. (Credit: Universitat Politècnica de València)

A prototype of a new biosensor helps detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. The development of this biosensor falls within the field known as liquid biopsy, which helps detect the presence of cancer through a blood test. The mesoporous biosensor is easy to use, low cost, and provides results in a very short time — between 30 and 60 minutes — from a sample of the patient’s plasma.

The biosensor is composed of a nanomaterial — a nanoporous alumina — that facilitates the detection in plasma of miR-99a-5p microRNA, which is associated with breast cancer. Until now, this has been done by using complex and time-consuming techniques, which means that this system could not be used as a diagnostic tool in the clinical setting.

The nanopores of the biosensor are loaded with a dye — rhodamine B — and sealed with an oligonucleotide. When interacting with the plasma sample, if the pore gates do not detect the presence of the microRNA, they remain closed; in contrast, in the presence of miR-99a-5p, the pore gates open and the dye is released.

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