Rancid Oranges Aid Detection of Diseases

Ernie Neff Research

Pooria Lesani
(Photo by Stefanie Zingsheim, University of Sydney)

A University of Sydney researcher is developing a cancer and serious disease-detecting biomedical probe that can be made from the juice of rancid oranges. Called a nanobiosensor — a tiny probe that uses fluorescence to signal cells’ pH in terms of their acidity or alkalinity — it detects whether cells are at risk, or in the early stages of cancer or other serious diseases. 

When human cells become more acidic, it can suggest that cancer is not far off. The nanobiosensor, which measures only one-billionth of a meter, is made of fluorescent carbon dots that can be created from food waste, in this case, the juice of rotten oranges. The ‘off’ oranges were used for their high levels of ascorbic acid — which improves the nanobiosensor’s functionality — and to minimize food waste going to a landfill. 

The process, published in Chemical Engineering Journal, involves taking a tissue biopsy of cells suspected to be cancerous, which are put in a petri dish. The nanobiosensor is then applied to the cells, which are examined under a fluorescence microscope. 

“Dramatic fluctuations in the acidity of cells can lead to inappropriate cell function, growth and division, and can lead to serious diseases,” said lead researcher and biomedical engineering doctoral student Pooria Lesani.

“We have developed a sensitive and cost-effective nanobiosensor for real-time measuring of the degree of acidity of the cells,” said Lesani, who is also affiliated with the Sydney Nano Institute.

“This nanobiosensor can also help us to gain a better understanding of how these diseases develop,” said Lesani. “Many diseases start developing over many years — and even decades — before a person shows even the slightest of symptoms. With many diseases such as Alzheimer’s, once there are symptoms, it is too late to treat them.”

“Our device allows for a more accurate disease diagnosis before the onset of symptoms, as well as enabling the early detection of serious diseases associated with pH fluctuations,” Lesani added. “We hope this could lead to the early treatment and prevention of serious disease. Current testing methods can be complex, expensive and time-consuming, whereas our nanobiosensor can easily be produced on a large scale at low cost.”

Source: The University of Sydney

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