Los Alamos Women in Science
Northern Chapter of the New Mexico Network for Women in Science and Engineering

co-sponsored by the Synergy Center,   UNM-LA,
LANL CPO,   and the  Bradbury Science Museum
Waveguide-based Optical Biosensor for the Detection of Disease Markers
Dr. Harshini Mukundan, C-PCS, LANL
Talk at 12:00 noon, Tuesday, 1 May 2007
Bldg 1, Los Alamos Research Park
Synergy Center Conf. Rm, 3rd flr

There are several biomarkers differentially expressed in disease. In pathogenesis, these are typically microbial proteins or carbohydrates that are secreted in the host and thus, detectable in body fluids such as blood and sometimes, urine. An example is the presence of proteins specific to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb), the causative agent of tuberculosis, in patient serum and urine. In other cases, such as cancer, several proteins are expressed differentially when compared to a healthy individual. A classic cancer marker is the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) that is over-expressed in several different cancers. Detection of biomarkers thus offers a potential method of disease diagnosis and detection. In addition, it is a valuable tool in understanding disease progression and/or pathogenesis. However, current efforts to capitalize on this approach have been limited by the paucity of sensitive methods for the detection of such markers. The sensor team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory has developed a waveguide-based optical biosensor for the rapid and sensitive characterization of these antigens. Here, we present data showing the application of this technology to the sensitive detection of CEA in serum from breast cancer (BC) patients. We will be evaluating the expression of CEA and other antigens in nipple aspirate fluid (NAF) from BC patients. Presence of this antigen in NAF is a conclusive diagnosis for the disease. We also demonstrate the detection of M.tb-specific antigens in the urine of patients suffering from the disease Detection of disease markers in urine/NAF is a non-invasive rapid method for disease diagnosis. This is of special importance in the case of TB where co-infection with HIV is a big issue. In addition, these studies offer valuable information on the synthesis and secretion of these biomarkers in the patients. Small cohort studies for the validation of this data are currently underway.  (LAUR-07-2410)
Biography - Dr. Harshini (Harshi) Mukundan is a post-doctoral fellow in C-PCS with Dr. Basil Swanson and his group. Harshi works on sensor based detection of biological agents, especially disease markers such as for TB and breast cancer. She has a BS and MS in microbiology from India and a Ph.D in Biomedical Sciences from UNM. Before coming to LANL, Harshi worked for 2 years for the Santa Fe-based biotech company QTL Biosystems LLC.
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