MAR 12, 2018 8:34 AM PDT

New Nanopore Sensor Detects Molecule in Osteoarthritis

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

A new sensory tool to detect and diagnose inflammatory diseases measures and analyzes molecules as they pass single-file through a hole on a microchip that is five thousand times smaller than a human hair. Needless to say, the new technology, developed by researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, improves upon current methods in speed, accuracy, and sensitivity.

A rendering of a joint affected by osteoarthritis. Credit: Bruce Blaus

In the present study, scientists are using their new tool, called a “solid-state nanopore sensor,” to measure a molecule called hyaluronic acid (HA) to detect and diagnose osteoarthritis and other inflammatory diseases. The tool is “a new, quantitative method for the assessment of a significant molecular biomarker that bridges a gap in the conventional technology,” explained lead author Adam R. Hall, PhD.

HA is a molecule naturally produced in the body connected to processes like tissue hydration, inflammation, and joint lubrication. Depending on how much HA there is and where HA is detected in biological fluids, scientists can measure inflammation, which is associated with chronic inflammatory disorders like osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, the most common chronic condition of the joints. Pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints occurs when the cushion between the joints, called cartilage, breaks down. There isn’t one particular cause of osteoarthritis, but certain factors increase the likelihood that a person would develop osteoarthritis: overweight or obese, injury or overuse, and genetic predisposition. HA size distribution changes over time in osteoarthritis, so the new solid-state nanopore sensor could help better diagnose disease progression.

"By using a minimally invasive procedure to extract a tiny amount of fluid - in this case synovial fluid from the knee - we may be able to identify the disease or determine how far it has progressed, which is valuable information for doctors in determining appropriate treatments," Hall said.

Researchers tested the tool with synovial fluid samples from a horse model of osteoarthritis. The solid-state nanopore sensor was capable of determining the size distribution of just 10 nanograms of HA extracted from this sample.

Compared to the most widely used method for similar extractions, gel electrophoresis, the solid-state nanopore sensor showed improved sensitivity and speed. Additionally, the new tool only requires small samples, compared to gel electrophoresis, which “requires a lot of starting material.” Other tools, such as mass spectrometry and size-exclusion chromatography, are expensive and have limited precision.

Going forward, the researchers plan on studying the tool with human samples. Additionally, they plan on applying the tool with diseases other than osteoarthritis were HA and similar molecules are involved, including traumatic injuries and cancer.

The present study was published in Nature Communications.

Sources: Arthritis Foundation, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
MAY 20, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Ovarian Cancer Screening More Beneficial for Early Cancer Detection
MAY 20, 2021
Ovarian Cancer Screening More Beneficial for Early Cancer Detection
A UK-based research study has shown that while ovarian cancer screening is beneficial for detecting cancers earlier, it ...
JUN 08, 2021
Neuroscience
Simple Blood Test Can Detect Depression and Underlying Neurodegeneration
JUN 08, 2021
Simple Blood Test Can Detect Depression and Underlying Neurodegeneration
Researchers led by King’s College London have found that levels of a protein known as neurofilament light chain (N ...
JUL 21, 2021
Microbiology
What Causes False Positives? Understanding Blood Culture Contamination
JUL 21, 2021
What Causes False Positives? Understanding Blood Culture Contamination
Blood culture is the most widely used diagnostic tool for the detection of bacteremia and fungemia. It is the most impor ...
JUL 29, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
A low-cost drug for the treatment of hepatitis.
JUL 29, 2021
A low-cost drug for the treatment of hepatitis.
      The viral disease, Hepatitis C, is known as a silent killer. Hepatitis C is easily spread thro ...
SEP 16, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Medical Opinions Are Often Divided, but Tech Can Bring Them Together
SEP 16, 2021
Medical Opinions Are Often Divided, but Tech Can Bring Them Together
Patients place their faith in medical professionals for making sound clinical decisions based on their diagnoses. But wh ...
SEP 23, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Skin Microbiome Analysis Gets Cleaned Up
SEP 23, 2021
Skin Microbiome Analysis Gets Cleaned Up
  Our skin is home to a carnival of millions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that together form the dermal microbio ...
Loading Comments...