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March 2019 - Monthly update

One of the aims of the AiPBAND project is to train us ESRs in the early diagnosis of brain tumours, focusing on gliomas. But why is this early diagnosis so important?

Early glioma diagnosis has the highest chance for successful treatment. Currently, there are two general methods for glioma diagnosis; via imaging or biopsy. Imaging methods such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography Scans (CT) produce pictures of the brain that can give information on the presence, grade or extent of glioma. In surgery, also called a biopsy, a piece of the brain tissue is removed for diagnosis and analyzed in the laboratory. Both methods are used after the tumour has grown large enough to cause symptoms in the patient, and typically must be followed up with prompt treatment.

In liquid biopsy, body fluids (such as blood, urine or stool) are collected from the patient to investigate the presence of certain biomarker that are produced within the body if a tumour is present even if it is in an early stage. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) for example is a FDA approved biomarker for prostate cancer, and the BRCA gene is an approved marker for breast cancer. Detecting these biomarkers in a liquid biopsy sample is used for diagnosing the respective cancers. However, there is no such application available yet for the diagnosis of glioma.

Some of our students are working on improving this situation by investigating new methods for blood-based glioma diagnosis. Therefore, this month, we have updates from ESR-2, Vanessa Jungbluth, and ESR-3, Yagmur Yildizhan.


“The aim of my project is to develop an assay for ultrasensitive detection of miRNA related to gliomas by using microfluidic devices integrating plasmonic based detection approaches. Target application of the assay will be liquid biopsy, therefore assays will be specifically focused on enhancing sensitivity and specificity. Currently I am developing and optimizing an assay for miRNA detection using Surface Plasmon Resonance Imaging (SPRi). This method allows label-free kinetic monitoring of molecular interactions in real time by measuring changes in refractive index induced by molecules (such as miRNA) binding to the sensor surface.”

Vanessa Jungbluth, ESR-2 at the University of Catania (Italy)


“I am currently working on ultrasensitive detection of extracellular vesicles using a FO-SPR (Fiber optic surface plasmon resonance) biosensor. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have drawn great attention lately as potential biomarkers for detection and treatment of many diseases, particularly cancer. Their analyses are complex, and there is no standardization for the use of EVs, nor on their use as biomarker. In the Biosensors group at KU Leuven, we are using a benchtop FO-SPR biosensor, commercialized by Fox Biosystems, for achieving a label-free FO-SPR EV bioassay. Currently, I am focusing on increasing the detection signal of EVs using gold nanoparticles to achieve a lower limit of detection.”

Yagmur Yildizhan, ESR-3 at KU Leuven University (Belgium)

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