JAPAN — Scientists from Nagoya University in Japan have developed a new device that detects a specific membrane protein in urine to determine if a patient has a brain tumor.

This protein can potentially be used to detect brain cancer non-invasively while increasing the likelihood of tumors being detected early enough for surgery.

The study was published in ACS Nano, and the research was led by Yasui and Professor Yoshinobu Baba of Nagoya University’s Graduate School of Engineering.

Although early detection of many types of cancer has contributed to the recent increases in cancer survival rates, the survival rate for brain tumors has remained almost unchanged for over 20 years.

Almost 85,000 people a year get brain tumors in the U.S. alone. Only 36% of brain cancer patients survive more than five years, according to the American Cancer Society.  All of which has led to increased interest in biomarkers for this type of cancer.

Partly, the poor survival rate for brain cancer is due to late detection. According to Nagoya University, the survival rate for brain tumors has remained virtually unchanged for over 30 years.

Physicians often discover brain tumors only after the onset of neurological symptoms, such as loss of movement or speech, by which time the tumor has reached a considerable size.

Detecting the tumor when it is still small, and starting treatment as soon as possible, should help save lives.

One possible sign that a person has a brain tumor is the presence of tumor-related extracellular vesicles (EVs) in their urine. EVs are nano-sized vesicles involved in a variety of functions, including cell-to-cell communication.

Because those found in brain cancer patients have specific types of RNA and membrane proteins, they could be used to detect the presence of cancer and its progression.

Although they are excreted far from the brain, many EVs from cancer cells exist stably and are excreted in the urine without breaking down.

Because those found in brain cancer patients have specific types of RNA and membrane proteins, they could be used to detect the presence of cancer and its progression.

The new device from Nagoya University uses this information to accurately detect brain tumors. The device uses nanowires to analyze EV membrane proteins, known as CD31/CD63, in the urine of brain tumor patients.

By detecting these proteins, doctors may be able to identify brain tumor patients before they show any symptoms.

Urine testing is an effective and simple way to gather information about a person’s health because it contains many biomolecules that can be traced back to identify diseases.

Associate Professor Takao Yasui stated that current methods for isolating and detecting EVs require multiple instruments and procedures.

However, their new all-in-one nanowire assay is able to isolate and detect EVs in a single, simple procedure.

According to Yasui, users will be able to modify the assay to detect specific membrane proteins or microRNAs (miRNAs) inside EVs to detect different types of cancer.

The goal is to use this platform to analyze specific membrane protein expression levels in patients’ urinary EVs, which will lead to the early detection of various types of cancer.

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