Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have come up with a way to separate enough protein biomarkers to diagnose blood cancers, including leukemias and multiple myelomas, according to an article in GenomeWeb. It wasn't easy. Researcher Arie Admon and his team combined immunoaffinity purification, microcapillary chromatography and mass spectrometry to separate the little buggers from all the other circulating proteins.
What all those tools did was detect human leukocyte antigens (HLA) in the blood and analyze them to see which kinds of peptides are attached. HLA molecules "ferry peptides from inside the cell to the cell surface," Admon told GenomeWeb. They found that peptides from cancerous cells are being released to the cell surface and into the bloodstream, but they're still carrying around HLA molecules.
"It's like a memory of a protein in the blood," Admon is quoted as saying. "And with our new method, we can actually purify these HLA molecules from the blood and get enough material to purify the peptides that are bound to these molecules."