Cancer diagnosing contact lenses

22nd August 2022
Sheryl Miles

Contact lenses engineered to capture tears have the potential to detect cancer, according to scientists from the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation (TIBI).

The TIBI research team found that exosomes, which are formed in bodily fluids, are potential biomarkers for the detection of cancer.

Exosomes are nanometre-sized extracellular vesicles (small, fluid-filled sacs) which are formed in most cells and secreted into bodily fluids.

These exosomes were once considered to be a dumping ground from their original cell for any unwanted materials. However, researchers now believe they can transport different biomolecules between cells.

The team, who are experts in contact lens biosensor design and fabrication, experimented by staining the lenses – which have microchambers bound to antibodies that can capture exosomes – with nanoparticle-tagged specific antibodies for selective visualisation.

Exosomes found in tears have surface proteins, and some of these proteins are increased in response to markers such as cancer, viral infections, or injury. It is because of this, they are becoming a point of interest in cancer diagnoses, prognoses, and treatment predictions.

Until now, scientists have had challenges isolating the vast quantities of uncontaminated exosomes they need, to be able to experiment with the diagnostics.

However, the TIBI team have devised an antibody- conjugated signalling microchamber contact lens (ABSM-CL) to capture the exosomes found in tears – a better and purer source of collection than that found in other secretion outlets such as blood, urine, or saliva.

To optimise their ABSM-CL, when producing the microchambers, they opted for direct laser cutting and engraving over the traditional method of cast moulding, negating the need for expensive clean-rooms, which are required when using metallic or nanocarbon materials

An initial validation experiment assessed the ABSM-CL against exosomes secreted into supernatants from ten different tissue and cancer cell lines. The spectroscopic shifts seen in the test samples validated the ABSM-CL’s ability to capture and detect exosomes.

Comparable results were found when the ABSM-CL was tested on ten different tear samples from volunteers.

The final experiments took exosomes in supernatants from three different cell lines with different surface marker expressions evaluated against the ABSM-CL, along with different combinations of marker-specific detection antibodies.

They found that the resulting patterns of detection and non-detection validated the ABSM-CL’s ability to accurately capture and detect exosomes with different surface markers.

With so many advancements in the field of contact lens-based technology, from cancer diagnosing lenses, to lenses that change colour when they detect age-related health conditions, eye tech is certainly one to watch.

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