Scientists Use Nanotechnology to Detect Molecular Biomarker For Osteoarthritis

Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Summary: For the first time, researchers have been able to measure a specific molecule indicative of osteoarthritis and a number of other inflammatory diseases using nanotechnology.

Hyaluronic acid (hyaluronan) – HA is a naturally occurring molecule that is involved in tissue hydration, inflammation and joint lubrication in the body. The abundance and size distribution of HA in biological fluids is recognized as an indicator of inflammation, leading to osteoarthritis and other chronic inflammatory diseases. It can also serve as an indicator of how far the disease has progressed. The most widely used methods used to analyze this molecule are gel electrophoresis, mass spectrometry and size-exclusion chromatography which are expensive and limited in range. Researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for the first time have been able to measure a specific molecule indicative of osteoarthritis and a number of other inflammatory diseases using nanotechnology. This preclinical study used a solid-state nanopore sensor as a tool for the analysis of hyaluronic acid. The study findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Nanotechnology to detect biomarker for osteoarthritis

Adam Hall, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Wake Forest School of Medicine, injects microliters of fluid into a flow cell holding a nanopore device that has demonstrated the ability to detect molecular biomarkers of disease. Credit: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

In the study, the research team first employed synthetic HA polymers to validate the measurement approach. They then used the platform to determine the size distribution of as little as 10 nanograms (one-billionth of a gram) of HA extracted from the synovial fluid of a horse model of osteoarthritis. The measurement approach consists of a microchip with a single hole or pore in it that is a few nanometers wide – about 5,000 times smaller than a human hair. This is small enough that only individual molecules can pass through the opening, and as they do, each can be detected and analyzed. By applying the approach to HA molecules, the researchers were able to determine their size one-by-one. HA size distribution changes over time in osteoarthritis, so this technology could help better assess disease progression.

Asst. Prof. Adam R. Hall said, “By using a minimally invasive procedure to extract a tiny amount of fluid – in this case synovial fluid from the knee – we may be able to identify the disease or determine how far it has progressed, which is valuable information for doctors in determining appropriate treatments.”

More Information: Felipe Rivas et al, “Label-free analysis of physiological hyaluronan size distribution with a solid-state nanopore sensor”, Nature Communications (2018). doi:10.1038/s41467-018-03439-x


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