Chemical octopus catches sneaky cancer clues, trace glycoproteins

IMAGE: Sorry, faint cancer cues made of glycoproteins, but you’ll have a very hard time dodging the chemical octopus. The parts shaped like a hexagon-pentagon combo are benzoboroxoles, which make great… view more 

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Credit: Georgia Tech / Wu / Xiao & NYPL Digital Commons / Brumfield

Cancer drops sparse chemical hints of its presence early on, but unfortunately, many of them are in a class of biochemicals that could not be detected thoroughly, until now.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have engineered a chemical trap that exhaustively catches what are called glycoproteins, including minuscule traces that have previously escaped detection.

Glycoproteins are protein molecules bonded with sugar molecules, and they’re very common in all living things. Glycoproteins come in myriad varieties and sizes and make up important cell structures like cell receptors. They also wander around our bodies in secretions like mucus or hormones.

But some glycoproteins are very, very rare and can serve as an early signal, or biomarker, indicating there’s something wrong in the body – like cancer. Existing methods to reel in glycoproteins for laboratory examination are relatively new and have had big holes in their nets, so many of these molecules, especially those very rare ones produced by cancer,


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