ChemSci Pick of the Week
A fluorescent probe could diagnose and track ovarian cancer.
Biomarkers are specific molecules, genes, or other characteristics that signal the presence of particular diseases in the body. They can be used to diagnose diseases such as cancer, and to follow their progress around the body.
Chemists have developed methods of identifying and tracking specific biomarkers, for example by developing 'fluorescent probes'. These are specially-designed molecules that fluoresce in the presence of the target biomarker. This method is simple and elegant, but not without its challenges.
One problem is that the fluorescent probes are small. This enables them to enter the cells where the biomarkers are – by diffusing through the cell membrane – but also means they can leave the cell just as easily, which limits their usefulness. Another problem is that certain types of probes tend to clump together – or 'aggregate' – and this aggregation causes the fluorescence to be quenched.