Recently, microRNAs (miRNAs) have been implicated in initiation and progression of human malignancies including cancer. Identified expression patterns in body fluids and biopsies underscore their potential as biomarkers. As patient samples are limited and miRNA concentrations often extremely low, serial analysis is not practical. Thus only new, extremely sensitive methodologies with high multiplexing power will be able to significantly boost diagnostic value and advance our understanding of the biological roles of miRNAs. Nesher Technologies, Inc. (NTI) has exclusively licensed the intellectual property for a revolutionary quantitative, ultrasensitive and -specific biodetection technology, developed at the UCLA Single Molecule Biophysics Lab (headed by Prof. Shimon Weiss), with exquisite single-well multiplexing potential, minimal sample requirements, and extremely simplified handling procedures (no separation/washing and amplification steps). It is based on alternating laser excitation (ALEX) single molecule fluorescence spectroscopy, whereby target recognition molecules are tagged with different color fluorescent dyes (and quenchers). Based on confocal microscopy, it allows ultrasensitive detection of biomolecules in solution, differentiation of numerous targets simultaneously, and direct quantification via molecule counting. NTI recently achieved expansion from 2-color (2c) to 4-color (4c) ALEX, substantially expanding its multiplexing power, and demonstrated diagnostic utility for ultrasensitive miRNA quantification at clinically relevant concentrations without amplification. Furthermore, recent work by our consultants Steve Quake and Shimon Weiss shows i) combination of microfluidics-based sample handling with ALEX spectroscopy, a new breakthrough approach for assay miniaturization termed "single molecule optofluidics", and ii) enhanced throughput using a multifoci excitation/detection geometry. NTI's long-term goal is to develop rapid, highly multiplexed (with a capacity of >100 analytes per sample), ultrasensitive and -specific, quantitative, cost- effective, and fully automated, nucleic acid- and protein-based diagnostic tests that require minimal sample sizes. In this Phase I SBIR application, we propose to adapt 4c-ALEX for fast ultrasensitive multiplexed detection and quantification of microRNAs. Proof-of-principle will be established via amplification-free characterization of cancer-specific miRNAs signatures in serum samples. Subsequent technology commercialization will target basic research, pharmaceuticals, and diagnostics markets.
Our Specific Aims are: 1. Separate detection and quantification of seven lung cancer-related miRNAs in spiked samples by 4c-ALEX single molecule fluorescence spectroscopy and method comparison to qPCR. 2. Multiplexed (single-well) discrimination and quantification of these miRNAs. 3. 4c-ALEX-based analysis of 100 archived clinical serum samples (60 cancer patients and 40 controls). SBIR Phase II will be dedicated to assay expansion, miniaturization, and instrument prototype development.
Dysregulated expression of microRNAs in various tissues has recently been associated with a variety of diseases and it has been shown that miRNA signatures can be used as novel biomarkers, potentially offering more sensitive and specific tests than those currently available for early diagnosis of cancer and other diseases. Nesher Technologies, Inc. intends to develop an innovative test for microRNA signatures based on patent-protected alternating laser excitation (ALEX) single molecule fluorescence spectroscopy, offering the prospect to detect cancers at an early stage with high sensitivity and specificity which would significantly improve survival rates of this deadly disease. This will complement Nesher Technologies'federally-funded efforts of instrument and reagent development for tests for detection of early cancer, infectious and genetic diseases, bioterror agents, and others, thereby translating cutting-edge innovations in nanobiotechnology into benefits for the society at large by saving human lives and reducing healthcare costs.