Notwithstanding that scientists from Brigham Young University have already developed a technology to monitor flow distances of urine in microfluidic devices, this newest discovery creates absolutely new model, which essentially extends the previous one. BYU researchers designed device, which can measure unamplified DNA analogs of miRNAs molecules. MiRNAs are specific biomarkers in human body whose quantity is changed in such abnormal conditions, like kidney disease and prostate cancers. After inserting nucleic acid receptors into microchannel surfaces, the scientists were capable to measure how the actual flow distance of urine depends on target concentrations of DNA in both synthetic urine and lab made samples.
Flow distance and time were found to correlate with target levels, and this was recognized as a signal of the existence of disease. A significant advantage of the newly developed tool is that it does not produce false positive results, as the extraneous synthetic materials in the urine never influence the flow of liquid throughout the pipes unlike the diseased biomarker.
As research team chief Adam Woolley said: “The aim was to identify these biomarkers at minimal levels, what usually can be at the early stages of the diseases where they are hardly starting to display, and thus difficult to detect. In specific, we’ve been searching for any DNA related to kidney diseases or prostate cancers.“
Like usual home pregnancy test identifies molecules in the urine that indicate pregnancy, this newly developed tool will be able to display not only the existence of miRNA molecules but their concentrations also.
Present ways of identifying these types of biomarkers are not economical and too much complicated to be widely used like bench top devices. The next stage of the research after testing on synthetic urine is to test the pipes on real human urine samples to check if the diseases can really be found using this method. The technology is patent pending now, but Brigham Young University is already working on improving it.