Cancer cell detection technology wins Kaye Award for Hebrew University researchers

06/20/04

A unique technology for optoelectronic detection of the presence of cancer cells has been developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by a team of researchers headed by Itamar Willner, Enrique Berman Professor of Solar Energy at the Institute of Chemistry.

The technology detects the presence of telomerase, an active enzyme appearing in cancer cells that is considered a general marker for different types of cancers.

For their work in development of this technology, the research team has been chosen as one of the winners of a Kaye Innovation Award, presented during the Hebrew University's 67th meeting of the Board of Governors. Working with Prof. Willner on this project have been Dr. Eugenii Katz, Dr. Fernando Patolsky and Yossi Weizmann.

The technology developed by the researchers works as follows:

When chemically-modified magnetic particles are brought into contact with cancer cell samples, the telomerase performs on the magnetic particles the same bioprocess that has occurred in the cancer cells; that is, there is a buildup on the magnetic particles of nucleic acids called telomers. In this process, however, a chemically-modified nucleotide base is incorporated into the telomers.

The modified magnetic particles are then separated from the cancer cell sample, and the incorporated material is used to bind a second enzyme that leads to the formation of light by the system. When this happens, it is an indication that cancer was detected on the particles.

The method is highly sensitive, indicating the presence of even miniscule numbers of cancer cells in pathological samples. It has been successfully applied thus far to detect a variety of cancers in tissues and body fluids.

The technology has provided a basis for the formation of a joint venture company involving the university's Yissum Technology Transfer Company and an Australian company. Under development through this joint venture is a diagnostic kit for the detection of cancer cells in urine samples. Further development is also expected to lead to kits for detecting colon cancer and leukemia in stool and blood samples, respectively.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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