Biotechnology, Featured, Neuroscience

Researchers develop urine test capable of early detection of brain tumors with 97% accuracy

Researchers from Nagoya University discovered that microRNAs in urine might be a useful biomarker for diagnosing brain cancers in a recent study. Their findings, which were published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, suggest that routine urine testing might aid in the early diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors, thereby improving patient survival.

Early detection of brain tumors is challenging, in part because most individuals get a brain CT or MRI scan only after experiencing neurological symptoms such as limb paralysis and speech impairment. When brain tumors are identified by CT or MRI, they have often grown too big to be completely removed, lowering the patients’ chances of survival. Early brain tumor detection techniques that are accurate, simple, and affordable are highly desirable from this standpoint.

MicroRNAs (small nucleic acid molecules) have attracted a lot of interest as a diagnostic biomarker for malignant tumors recently. MicroRNAs are released by different cells and exist in bodily fluids such as blood and urine in a stable and undamaged state within extracellular vesicles.

MicroRNAs in urine were studied as a biomarker for brain cancers by Nagoya University researchers. “Urine can be collected easily without putting a burden on the human body,” says Nagoya University Associate Professor Atsushi Natsume, a corresponding author of the study.

“Urine-based liquid biopsy hadn’t been fully investigated for patients with brain tumors, because none of the conventional methodologies can extract microRNAs from urine efficiently in terms of varieties and quantities. So, we decided to develop a device capable of doing it.”

The novel device they created is made up of 100 million zinc oxide nanowires that can be sterilized and mass-produced, making it ideal for medical usage. In comparison to traditional approaches, the device can extract a considerably larger range and volume of microRNAs from merely a milliliter of urine.

Many microRNAs produced from brain tumors exist in urine in a stable state, according to their study of microRNAs collected using the device from the urine of patients with brain tumors and non-cancer patients.

The researchers then used their diagnostic model based on the expression of microRNAs in urine samples from patients with brain tumors and non-cancer patients to see if urinary microRNAs might be used as a biomarker for brain tumors. The results showed that the model can distinguish the cancer patients from the non-cancer patients at a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 97%, regardless of the malignancy and size of tumors. The researchers thus concluded that microRNAs in urine are a promising biomarker of brain tumors.

The researchers believe that their findings will aid in the early detection of aggressive brain cancers such as glioblastomas, as well as other malignancies. Dr. Natsume says, “In the future, by a combination of artificial intelligence and telemedicine, people will be able to know the presence of cancer, whereas doctors will be able to know the status of cancer patients just with a small amount of their daily urine.”

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