Synthetic biology-based cellular biomedical tattoo for detection of hypercalcemia associated with cancer

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Science Translational Medicine  18 Apr 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 437, eaap8562
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aap8562

A melanin mark for hypercalcemia

Earlier detection of disease could help improve response to therapy. Blood calcium concentrations are elevated in several types of cancer, in addition to other diseases. Here, Tastanova et al. used synthetic biology and cell engineering to develop a sensor that detects hypercalcemia. Their implantable sensor consists of cells that express the calcium-sensing receptor and produce melanin in response to sustained elevated calcium in the blood. Melanin was visible as a dark pigment in the encapsulated cell constructs in vitro and could be detected when implanted in pig skin ex vivo. Melanin production was also observed in engineered cells implanted in mice bearing hypercalcemic breast and colon cancer tumors. This biomedical tattoo strategy could also potentially be used to noninvasively monitor response to treatment.

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