Biomarkers for cancer and other diseases that are present in urine can be a great target for early diagnostics. Nucleic acids, particularly microRNAs (miRNA), are interesting because they’re present in all living things and signal the on-goings of specific activities or presence of certain types of cells. Researchers at Brigham Young University developed a small, easy to use microfluidic sensor that can not only detect the presence of specific strings of unamplified miRNA, but can also identify their concentration.
The device is essentially a very narrow tube coated with nucleic acid receptors to which the target biomarkers attach. The more they attach, the slower the entire liquid moves through the channel. The final distance that the mixture travels correlates to the concentration of the target nucleic acid biomarker.
Here’s a video from BYU about the device:
Brigham Young University press statement: How far urine flows in a tiny tube says a lot about your health…