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TADPOLES OF THE FUTURE

Cindy Maddera

This article was sent to me by Dr. Clarke to use as a Friday Science entry, which is great because I’ve been too busy to research anything on my own. Researchers at the Molecular Science Institute of Berkeley have developed a very simple cancer detector they call a tadpole. Tadpoles are protein-DNA chimeras. The head is made of a protein designed to bind specifically to a certain molecule or other protein and the tail is made up of a strip of DNA that essentially acts as a bar code. The tadpoles are very sensitive. They can detect certain proteins that are released in the blood when certain tumors like prostate or breast cancer are forming. The tadpoles can even detect these proteins before you or your doctor even realize that there is something wrong, before complete tumor formation.

You don’t even need to bind a lot of tadpoles to detect the cancer, because once the tadpoles are mixed with a drop of blood they are put in a PCR machine. If you only have fifteen tadpoles in the sample, the PCR machine can multiply the tails until you have enough to detect by standard lab gear. Just by dividing what you had just multiplied would roughly tell you how many cancer-indicating molecules were in that blood sample.

It will be some time before they can bring this test into the market. They are still trying to figure out how to mass produce the tadpoles cheaply and they also have to jump through the hurtles of federal testing and approval.