New methods and techniques are continuously being found to improve the way of detecting and diagnosing diseases. Researchers at Michigan State University have developed an interesting new method for detecting the density of proteins in the blood – a method that could massively improve the rate at which diseases are detected and diagnosed.
A method has previously been used to separate different types of particles in solutions, arranging them in groups based on their relative densities rather than weight is called “magnetic levitation,” or MagLev. Researchers, Morteza Mahmoudi, and Ali Akbar Ashkarran suggest that this method also can be applied to human blood plasma – the liquid component of blood. Plasma contains many types of proteins that perform a multitude of functions in the body.
As proteins play a crucial role in our body, being able to accurately measure the density of proteins in the body would be a great step taken towards wellness. For example, lipoproteins transport fats to cells, antibody proteins play roles in immunity and coagulation proteins help blood clot. Current methods to measure the density of proteins in liquid are unreliable and often destroy the fundamental properties of the proteins.
Plasma proteins were introduced in a small tube containing magnetic Nanoparticles. After a few hours, there was an observation of a number of distinct bands representing various forms of proteins. This is the MagLev technique.
“The proteins created specific shapes when they were levitated,” Mahmoudi said. “It looks like a ‘smiley face’ of layers.”
The two remarkable findings from the research were that there was no correlation between the density of a protein and its molecular weight, which came as a surprise since it goes against conventional thinking. The other was that the average density of proteins was much lower than previous studies had suggested. The researchers believe the accurate density of proteins would enable us to design safer and more efficient therapeutic agents, such as Nanomedicine. In this way, the particular “signature” of an individual’s plasma proteins might tell a doctor much about a patient’s health status.
In another study conducted they tested the MagLev method clinically by comparing the plasma of healthy people to that of people who abuse opioids. From image analysis, they found distinct and reliable differences in the spectrum of plasma proteins of healthy individuals and those who abuse opioids. The method holds particular promise for diagnostics, a potentially lengthy process that can delay treatment. Mahmoudi said he and his team are currently working on using MagLev to identify other types of chronic disease, like multiple sclerosis and cancer, where the accurate diagnosis is critical and in many cases lifesaving.
The team is also looking at whether MagLev can be used in diagnosing cancer, where early detection can affect survival rates.
“If we can use the technique to detect cancer sooner, many more cancers could be treated successfully,” Mahmoudi said.
Source: Michigan State University