A local research team said they develop a technology to diagnose early-onset puberty only by running a urine test.
Conventionally, physicians have diagnosed precocious puberty with a “hormone release test,” in which they collect blood at regular intervals to compare hormone levels after injecting an induction agent.
Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) said on Monday that researchers Lee Hyo-jin and Lee Kwan-hyi at the Center for Biomaterials, and researcher Kim Ki-hun at the Doping Control Center, developed a non-invasive hormone test method to screen extremely low levels of sex hormones in children’s urine “at the highest sensitivity level in the world.”
|The left picture shows a schematic diagram of the multiple hormones detecting technology in urine, and the right, chemical compounds detection using a mass spectrometer. (Credit: KIST)|
The researchers aimed to reduce the pain and psychological burden of repeated blood sampling for children, as well as to prevent artificial stimulations of the conventional test method from affecting the test results.
They paid particular attention to the female hormone in urine called estradiol and the male hormone testosterone.
The researchers introduced nanoparticles that mark the two hormones and amplified the mass spectrometer signals to detect multiple types of hormones effectively.
They simultaneously introduced chemicals that are easy to ionize into antibodies detecting specific hormones and nanoparticles attached with aptamers. Aptamers are single-stranded nucleic acids (DNA, RNA or modified nucleic acids) that can bind to target molecules with high affinity and specificity.
Through experiments, the researchers found that the non-invasive hormone screening worked reliably in human urine.
They said the newly developed method using chemical molecules attached to nanoparticles was 10,000-fold more effective in detecting hormones than screening the hormones by the mass spectrometer. The researcher’s new hormone detection method showed 100 ag/ml concentration, which is the highest hormone screening sensitivity level reported in the academic society.
“Just like barcodes show the product information, chemicals can play a role of barcodes,” said Lee Hyo-jin, a researcher at KIST. “We expect that we can apply this method to other various low-molecular detections that have been difficult in urine tests.”
The Ministry of Science and ICT funded the KIST’s study, which has been published in the latest issue of Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical. The journal ranks within top 2.5 percent in Journal Citation Reports (JCR).
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