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NUS researchers create STAMP technology – a less invasive biopsy procedure

Image credits: http://news.nus.edu.sg/

A team of researchers from NUS have created a new technology that is able to accurately identify and classify cancer cells.

Called the Sequence-Topology Assembly for Multiplexed Profiling (STAMP), this technology is also able to predict the aggressiveness of the disease. It is an upgraded version of the current biopsy process.

With this technology, detailed information of the disease can be obtained at a much faster rate and at a much earlier stage too.

A typical biopsy involves the removal of small amounts of tissue from the body. These tissues will then be analysed by doctors for diagnosing cancers.

This is an invasive procedure but the lack of it will lead to a lack of samples which will result in inaccurate diagnosis of the disease. A confirmed diagnosis of the cancer, however, can only be made post-surgery which takes time to obtain.

This new STAMP technology is a solution to all these obstacles. This technology works by using programmable DNA barcodes for measuring billions of protein markers within a single test. It will measure the amount of protein markers and the distribution of it in a cell.

The DNA is folded into 3D nanostructures for achieving a high labelling efficiency and to remain strong against biological degradation. STAMP utilises the two properties of DNA which are the large capacity to store information and the programmability to fold and unfold different structures.

The 3D barcodes are unfolded on-demand via heating for conducting analysis.

“To perform analysis, these 3D barcodes are unfolded on-demand through heating to release a pool of linear DNA, which can be easily analysed using established technologies such as PCR and DNA sequencing. In this way, the expression of a very large number of protein markers and their distribution in cells can be sensitively measured in a single test,” said Mr Noah Sundah, doctoral student from NUS iHealthtech as well as NUS Biomedical Engineering, and first author of the study.

STAMP achieved a high diagnostic accuracy of above 94 per cent for diagnosis of breast cancer. It also provided crucial clinical information which is usually obtained post-surgery. This is the result of a clinical study done by the research team.

The clinical study constituted 69 breast cancer patients.

Free needle aspiration (FNA) biopsies of every patient were obtained from every patient and these samples were analysed using STAMP.

A similar procedure was done but using gold-standard pathology analysis on post-surgery tissues of the patients.

As mentioned earlier, the results showed high levels of accuracy and were on the same accuracy level as the gold-standard pathology analysis.

The 10-member research team was led by Assistant Professor Shao Huilin from the NUS Institute for Health Innovation & Technology (NUS iHealthtech).

It has goals of expanding the application of STAMP to other forms of cancer such as brain, lung and gastric.

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