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  • Conversation: New technology enables identification of biomarkers for a wide range of diseases

    • February 12, 2018 12:58 PM GMT
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      New technology enables identification of biomarkers for a wide range of diseases

      Scientists have developed a way to identify biomarkers for a wide range of diseases by assessing the antibodies we are making to the complex sugars coating our cells.
      The new, highly sensitive Luminex Multiplex Glycan Array enables the kind of volume needed to establish associations between antibody levels in our blood to these complex sugars, or glycans, and conditions from cancer to autoimmune disease and dementia, they report in the journal Nature Communications.
      "For many diseases that kill us every day, there still are no good biomarkers," says Dr. Jin-Xiong She, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Genomic Medicine.
      Sugar coating on our cells is hardly icing, rather essential to cell health and ours. It helps cells know what other cells to bind to; its adhesive nature even helps them stick to other cells. It can help ensure a negative charge on the cell surface that keeps cell contents inside and provide protection from bacteria or viruses. It helps ensure that the proteins our cells make stay on task. It even helps our immune system recognize our cells as us.
      But the sugar coating can also, often inexplicably, become a target for our immune system, which can dramatically alter cell function and lead to disease.
      Like our cells, the beads in the new array are sugar coated. By exposing patient blood or serum to them, the scientists can see which glycans the patient is making antibodies against and how much they are making, looking for trends that could predict disease course, even potentially one day diagnose their disease.
      In fact, the scientific team led by She has already used the array to identify a potential biomarker for high risk of ovarian cancer relapse following surgery and standard chemotherapy regimens.
      "While we think this new test will eventually enable us to do many things, right now we have evidence it can help determine biomarkers for those at risk for relapse from cancer," says She, corresponding author of the published study.
      The ability to quickly look at large numbers of patient samples and glycans is particularly important when data collection is still very much underway to see what it all means, She says.
      Read more: http://bit.ly/2Ex8z1J

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