Researchers Develop a New Way to Find Cancer at the Nanometre Scale

Patrick Lejtenyi wrote . . . . . . . . .

Diagnosing and treating cancer can be a race against time. By the time the disease is diagnosed in a patient, all too often it is advanced and able to spread throughout the body, decreasing chances of survival. Early diagnosis is key to stopping it.

In a new Concordia-led paper published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, researchers describe a new liquid biopsy method using lab-on-a-chip technology that they believe can detect cancer before a tumour is even formed.

Using magnetic particles coated in a specially designed bonding agent, the liquid biopsy chip attracts and captures particles containing cancer-causing biomarkers. A close analysis can identify the type of cancer they are carrying. This, the researchers say, can significantly improve cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Trapping the messenger

The chip targets extracellular vesicles (EVs), a type of particle that is released by most kinds of organic cells. EVs — sometimes called exosomes — are extremely small, usually measuring between 40 and 200 nanometres. But they contain a cargo of proteins, nucleic acids such as RNA, metabolites and other molecules from the parent cell, and they are taken up by other cells. If EVs contain biomarkers associated with cancer and other diseases, they will spread their toxic cargo from cell to cell.

To capture the cancer-carrying exosomes exclusively, the researchers developed a small microfluidic chip containing magnetic or gold nanoparticles coated with a synthetic polypeptide to act as a molecular bonding agent. When a droplet of organic liquid, be it blood, saliva, urine or any other, is run through the chip, the exosomes attach themselves to the treated nanoparticles. After the exosomes are trapped, the researchers then separate them from the nanoparticles and carry out proteomic and genomic analysis to determine the specific cancer type.

“This technique can provide a very early diagnosis of cancer that would help find therapeutic solutions and improve the lives of patients,” says the paper’s senior author Muthukumaran Packirisamy, a professor in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering and director of Concordia’s Optical Bio-Microsystems Laboratory.

Alternatives to conventional chemo and exploratory surgeries

“Liquid biopsies avoid the trauma of invasive biopsies, which involve exploratory surgery,” he adds. “We can get all the cancer markers and cancer prognoses just by examining any bodily fluid.”

Having detailed knowledge of a particular form of cancer’s genetic makeup will expose its weaknesses to treatment, notes Anirban Ghosh, a co-author and affiliate professor at Packirisamy’s laboratory. “Conventional chemotherapy targets all kinds of cells and results in significant and unpleasant side effects,” he says. “With the precision diagnostics afforded to us here, we can devise a treatment that only targets cancer cells.”

The paper’s lead author is PhD student Srinivas Bathini, whose academic background is in electrical engineering. He says the interdisciplinary approach to his current area of study has been challenging and rewarding and notes that the technology’s potential could revolutionize medical diagnostics. The researchers used breast cancer cells in this study but are looking at ways to expand their capabilities to include a wide range of disease testing.

“Perhaps one day this product could be as readily available as other point-of-care devices, such as home pregnancy tests,” he speculates.

Source: Concordia University

Afternoon Sets with All-you-can-eat Fruits of Takano Fruit Tiara in Shinjuku, Japan

The price is 5,500 yen (tax included) for each person with a time limit of 120 minutes.

Eating the Right Insects Can Provide Nutrition … and Might be Good for the Planet

Genaro C. Armas wrote . . . . . . . . .

The notion of biting into a bug or chewing on a cricket might make some people a bit squeamish.

Don’t squash the idea until giving this food some thought.

Some 2 billion people around the world already eat insects to supplement their diet, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. The practice is known as entomophagy. Consuming the right critters can help address the pressing issues of food security with the world’s population expected to grow to 9.8 billion by 2050, the UN says. Insects can provide nutrition, with high protein, fat and mineral contents.

But it’s not just about food scarcity. Insects are a staple in diets in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and are consumed because of their taste, according to the FAO. For example, mopane caterpillars are considered a delicacy in southern Africa, while weaver ant eggs are a treat in parts of Southeast Asia.

In Western cultures, the practice of eating insects has started to catch on a bit more over the past decade or so, especially since the release of the FAO’s landmark 2013 report that caught the attention of new audiences, said Sujaya Rao, professor of entomology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The report in part connected insect consumption with larger societal issues like food sustainability and security, and the impact on the environment.

“One of the many ways to address food and feed security is through insect farming. Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly, and they have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint over their entire life cycle,” the FAO said in an information guide based on their report.

Globally more than 1,900 insect species are considered edible, with beetles the most common, followed by caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets. Dishes featuring bugs already are becoming more and more popular, as they appear in trendy eating spots across the country.

Celebrity chef Jose Andres’ Mexico City-inspired restaurant in Washington, D.C., serves tacos with chapulines, or grasshoppers. A top-selling concession item at the home of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners is a four-ounce cup of toasted grasshoppers served with savory chili-lime salt seasoning. A popular East Village restaurant in New York City offers, among many other insect-infused dishes, black ant guacamole that features a garnish of salt and – you guessed it – ground-up ants.

Beyond the novelty, insects can offer heart-healthy nutrition, too.

A January 2021 study in Critical Reviews in Food Science Nutrition said edible insects may have “high superior health benefits” due to high levels of vitamin B12, iron, zinc, fiber, essential amino acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and antioxidants. Rao pointed to crickets as a source of protein through their muscle-bound hind legs used for jumping.

Crickets and some other bugs can be raised vertically, Rao noted. This means they can be raised in layers in climate-controlled facilities, offering the possibility of operating year-round and leaving less of an environmental footprint than a livestock farm. One company in London, Ontario, is building what it calls a state-of-the-art facility that will be the world’s largest cricket farm.

Several products on the consumer market feature bugs, such as cricket powder and cricket protein bars.

“Due to long held stigmas, eating bugs is not common in the Western world,” Rao said. But “using insects as ingredients is one strategy, such as cricket flour in cookies. It doesn’t have that negative image. So a lot more people are willing then to give it a try.”

Rao is an author of a 2020 study in the Journal of Insect Science in which college students took part in taste-test surveys of cricket powder brownies to evaluate attitudes related to insects as food.

Students had a taste preference for cricket flour brownies over wheat flour brownies but could not consistently differentiate between brownie types, the study found. They ranked environmental and nutritional benefits associated with insect food products over taste factors alone, and indicated they may buy insect products in the future.

“The more that you can make it look similar to what you are used to at home,” Rao said, “or what your grandmother made, the better.”

Source: American Heart Association

Wild Mushroom Forest Toast

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
8 ounces wild mushrooms (such as maitake, chanterelle, or bluefoot), stemmed and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher (coarse) salt, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon dry vermouth
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons pine nuts
4 (3/4-inch thick) slices sourdough bread
extra-virgin olive oil, for the bread
kosher (coarse) salt, for the bread
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Method

  1. Make the onions and mushrooms. Heat a large skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil and once the butter melts, add the onions, rosemary, and thyme. Cook, stirring often, until the onions soften and begin to brown, 5-6 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deeply golden and begin to brown around the edges, 15-20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the mushrooms and salt and continue to cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms brown and soften, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the vermouth and pepper, and once the vermouth is completely evaporated and there isn’t any pooling liquid in the pan, remove from the heat. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
  5. Make the toast. In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until the nuts are golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a heat-safe plate.
  6. Toast the bread.
  7. To serve, top with a generous mound of the mushroom mixture and finish with the pine nuts and parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Toast – The Cookbook


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