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spermine - Shanmugam IAS academy in coimbatore


What’s in news?

New sensor may help early detection of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer and existing problem:

  • The occurrence of prostate cancer is an emerging problem.
  • Prostate cancer can be detected by measuring the level of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) in blood, but the test is not sensitive enough to demarcate low-risk cancer from the aggressive ones, often leading to over treatment.

Key data’s:

  • Indian researchers have developed a cost-effective hybrid gel-sensor that could potentially be used to detect the elevated levels of high spermine in blood and urine.
  • Two compounds namely spermine and spermidine, may help better detection of prostate cancer, especially in borderline ranges.
  • They play a key role in cell growth and development and are found in body fluids such as blood and urine. Their levels rise in cancer patients, so by measuring them, a more accurate test can be derived.

Working method:

  • The material in the gel glows by fluorescence quenching in the presence of high spermine levels.
  • Hydrogen bonding between spermine and CB quenches the electron transfer process in the sensor and enhances fluorescence emission.
  • This makes the sensor highly sensitive and selective with a wide working window of 6 micro molar – 2.5 milli molar, that responds in 7 seconds.

Fluorescent Material:

  • The fluorescent material Boronic acid integrated coumarin dye (CB) was embedded in agarose powder (a natural sugar) and water to make the hybrid gel. 
  • For making the fluorescent material, a simple mechano-chemical grinding in a mortar and pestle in the presence of methanol and incorporated it in an agarose gel matrix with subsequent heating and cooling.
  • The structural integrity tests and crystalline studies confirmed the robustness of the hybrid gel.
  • The soft gelatinous material had a shelf life of a few months when refrigerated.

How it can be used / Tested?

  • A small piece is torn away from the gel and dipped into the urine or blood sample.
  • The dipped piece is then observed under a UV lamp; if the sample contains high levels of spermine /spermidine, the biosensor turns-on with a bluish hue.
  • The intensity of the glow gives the measure of the level of spermine, which is evaluated by a fluorimeter.

Prostate cancer:

  • Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate, a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
  • Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. 


  • Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages.
  • Prostate cancer that’s more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:
  • Trouble urinating, decreased force in the stream of urine, Blood in semen Discomfort in the pelvic area, Bone pain, Erectile dysfunction
  • Risk factors: Age, Race, Obesity.


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