Researchers made a device that can detect markers of kidney disease and prostate cancer in a few minutes. All you have to do is drop a sample into a tiny tube and see how far it goes. That's because the tube is lined with DNA sequences that will latch onto disease markers and nothing else. Urine from someone with a clean bill of health would flow freely through the tube (the farther, the better). But even at ultra-low concentrations, the DNA grabs enough markers to slow the flow and signal the presence of disease. The results of the study was presented in the journal Analytical Methods using synthetic urine samples. The next step is to do human trials.
The method holds several advantages over current tests for prostate cancer: No blood draws, instant results and potentially higher accuracy. Men who get their blood screened for a prostate specific antigen are really only learning whether their prostate is enlarged, and sometimes cancer is the cause.
But this new device works only when there is an exact match to a disease marker that is 22 RNA bases long. Harmless material that closely resembles the disease marker doesn't sound a false alarm.
Although the new study specifically looked at prostate cancer and kidney disease, this same method could be used to make a diagnostic tool for other diseases. A urine sample have millions of different sequences of micro-RNA, and the researchers need to find the ones related to a disease.