MIT researchers have developed a revolutionary technology that could make diagnosing lung cancer simpler and more accessible. The new method involves inhaling nanoparticle sensors, which can be delivered via an inhaler or nebulizer. If these sensors detect cancer-linked proteins in the lungs, they produce a signal that accumulates in the urine, allowing for easy detection using a paper test strip.

The nanosensors consist of polymer nanoparticles coated with a reporter, such as a DNA barcode.These sensors can be delivered to the lungs through an inhaler or a nebulizer.Once inhaled, these nanosensors interact with the lung tissue. In the presence of cancer-related proteases, the sensors undergo a reaction where a reporter (such as a DNA barcode) is cleaved from the sensor particles.fter the reaction in the lungs, these signaling molecules enter the bloodstream and are eventually excreted through urine.To determine whether cancer-related proteases were present in the lungs, a simple paper test strip is used. This strip is capable of detecting the accumulated DNA barcodes in the urine. The presence of specific DNA barcodes indicates the potential presence of lung cancer.

This innovative approach has the potential to replace or complement the current standard for lung cancer diagnosis, low-dose computed tomography (CT). Particularly beneficial in low- and middle-income countries lacking widespread access to CT scanners, this technology aims to improve early detection and reduce resource disparities.

The study shows promising results in mice, and further testing and clinical trials are planned to assess its viability for human application.

The research was supported by various institutions, including the Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Initiative and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Article written by Anne Trafton