Zinc sensor holds promise for detection of prostate cancer

Written by Jessica Thorne, Future Science Group

An article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has reported a novel sensor for the detection of zinc in cells.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA, USA) have developed an optical sensor that can track zinc within cells. The sensor, which can be targeted to a specific organelle within the cell, fluoresces when bound to zinc, allowing researchers to identify regions that have high concentrations of the metal.

The sensor is based on Zinpyr1, a molecule previously developed by researchers from the same laboratory, which is a fluorescein dye that had been previously modified to only fluoresce when bound to zinc. The team modified the molecule further by adding a zinc-reactive protecting group, allowing easier targeting of the sensor and by adding an ‘address tag,’ which directs the sensor to the mitochondria.

The sensor has already been applied to prostate cancer research, where zinc levels dramatically decrease in the mitochondria of cancerous prostate cells, as described by lead investigator Robert Radford, “We can use these tools to study zinc trafficking within prostate cells, both healthy and diseased. By doing so we’re trying to gain insight into how zinc levels within the cell change during the progression of prostate cancer.”

The team is currently in the process of developing a diagnostic test, using a similar fluorescent sensor, for early detection of prostate cancer, which if caught early is easily treatable.

Source: New sensor tracks zinc in cells.