Team:BIOTEC Dresden/Future


     Any detection system needs to be established well and scrutinized critically in order to evaluate the pros and cons of the system. SensorBricks provides us with a means to detect and quantify cells expressing cell surface receptors by means of a nearly foolproof mechanism!

How important is Sensorbricks?

     To begin with, there are a couple of terms related to cancer therapy one has to be familiarize in order to extensively understand the role of SensorBricks. On the basis of the results of a physical examination and screening tests, cancer could be suspected. In order to confirm the same, more diagnostic tests need to be performed. Once the confirmation is done, there is “staging” which basically explains how advanced the cancer has become, including details as to whether it has metastasized to other tissues/organs. Cancer detection is always the initial and critical step which would determine the level of cancer growth in the patient. The earlier the detection process, the better the chances for removal of the tumor and further therapies. Although screening tests are useful, they are costly and also have some physical repercussions in addition to giving false–positive results some times. Some tumors secrete “tumor markers” into the bloodstream; it has already been thought that measuring levels of these markers would be an appropriate way to screen patients for cancer. But this method of screening has limited role in cancer detection as people who do not have cancer also have some amount of markers in their blood. Here is where SensorBricks fits in!

SensorBricks not only detects but also quantifies

     The steps involving antigen recognition, signal amplification and quantification are what makes SensorBricks modular. It enables one to quantify the amount of CD33 expression on the cell surface by means of the anti–CD33 which could be observed by the expression of a reporter protein. During cancer therapy, the doctor needs to keep a continuous record of the amount of cancer cells in the patient’s blood which is what signifies whether the ongoing treatment actually works or not. The decrease or increase in the number of CD33+ cells during the course of treatment,the quantification that can be carried out by SensorBricks. SensorBricks helps maintain a periodic count of the cancer cells in the patient’s blood which gives an entirely new dimension to cancer therapy. This way, the efficiency of treatment improves along with realistic information on the condition of the patient. For example, in our AHL assay, the cells are induced and kept for incubation for around 2 hours after which the fluorescence signal is detected denoting the amount of AHL and thereby the concentration of CD33+ cells.

SensorBricks is a modular detection system

     Another relevant point is that SensorBricks is a more general detection system and may also be applicable to several other diseases that involve expression of cell surface receptors. For instance, RAGE (the receptor for advanced glycation end products) has been linked to several chronic diseases that have been known to stem from vascular damage, such as diabetic complications, Alzheimer’s disease and even some tumors. SensorBricks could be the optimal detection system in such cases wherein the initial level of cell surface receptors and the change in count during the treatment could be kept track of, and quantified. One future application would be to characterize and quantify the expression of different cell surface receptors using a relevant intermediate fusion protein that would finally aid quantify the receptors on the cell surface.

A cost effective method in modern times

     Any detection system also depends to a great extent on the cost incurred in establishing and carrying out the system. At present, the SensorBricks system is financially comparable to the current state of the art method of antigen detection based upon monoclonal antibody labelled Fluorescence Assisted Cell Sorting. Also, it has the additional advantage of the signal amplification system than the conventional methods such as ELISA. When it comes to the need for an equipment for measurement, SensorBricks wins again since there is no specific machine/equipment required and is a step ahead in comparison to most other methods of detection. The next step in developing SensorBricks as a cost-effective system will involve triggering pigment production as the output, allowing for detection without the need for fluorescence microscopy. In doing so, we hope that SensorBricks will be adopted as an alternative for antigen detection in locations without access to necessary equipment.

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