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An Ideal Optical Imaging Contrast Agent: Cross-Platform Cancer Cell Identification and Precise Surgical Navigation
Author: LIU Renyong; LIU Zhengjie
Update time: 2018-04-11
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Accurately distinguishing tumor cells from normal cells holds the key to early diagnosis, effective intervention and treatment of cancer. However, the fundamental difficulties are the heterogeneity of tumor cells and the lack of truly specific and ideally universal cancer biomarkers.

 Recently, aiming at the hallmarker of cancer, uncontrollable cell growth, Prof. ZHANG Zhongping’s research group from Institute of Intelligent Machines (IIM), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), developed a spherical nucleic acid beacon (SNAB) probe, and made a breakthrough in the field of cancer diagnosis and precise surgical navigation based on the molecular phenotype of telomerase activity. The paper entitled “Cross-platform cancer cell identification using telomerase-specific spherical nucleic acids” was published in the ACS Nano (

The researchers designed novel SNAB probes by loading a large amount of specific double-stranded DNA onto the surface of 13 nm Au nanoparticles. In the presence of telomerase, the fluorophore-modified DNA strand could release from SNAB probes and light up the cancer cells, largely by passing the heterogeneity problem of cancers. The telomerase SNAB probe was successfully applied to the identification of 10 human tumor cell lines and 5 common somatic control cells. Owing to the cell-entry capability of SNAs, the SNAB probes readily achieved tumor cell detection across multiple platforms, ranging from solution-based assay to single cell imaging and in vivo solid tumor imaging. More importantly, the ideal optical imaging contrast agent potentially could visualize tumor margins and provide guidance for precise surgery.


Fig. Cross-platform cancer detections with SNAB probes

Article title: Cross-Patform Cancer Cell Identification Using Telomerase-Specific Spherical Nucleic Acids

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Prof. ZHANG Zhongping,

CAS Center for Excellence in Nanoscience,

Institute of Intelligent Machines,

Chinese Academy of Sciences, Hefei, Anhui 230031, China.

Tel.: +86-551-65591156; fax: +86-551-65591156



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