Single Molecule Detection of a Cancer Biomarker

Using a nano-enhanced version of a device capable of detecting the smallest viruses in solution, researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) have demonstrated that they can detect a single cancer marker protein without the use of fluorescent labels. Stephen Arnold and his collaborators describe their new device in the journal Nano Letters.

In 2012, Dr. Arnold and his team were able to detect in solution the smallest known RNA virus, MS2, with a mass of 6 attograms. Now, the NYU-Poly team has detected: a human cancer marker protein called thyroglobulin, with a mass of just 1 attogram, and the bovine form of a common plasma protein, serum albumin, with a far smaller mass of 0.11 attogram. An attogram is 10-18 grams, or a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a gram.

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