The adverse effects of many medical conditions are caused in part by oxidative stress, the damage caused by free radicals and peroxides in the body. Acrolein is one of the chemical products of these undesired reactions.
Consequently, the presence of acrolein in a blood sample is being investigated as a possible indicator of stroke (where rapid diagnosis and treatment is essential) and other medical conditions. Unfortunately, current methods of detecting acrolein involve a very dangerous (explosive) reaction, and/or slow quantification of the final chemical product of the assay.
Tetsuo Nagano (University of Tokyo) and coworkers have reported an improved detection method for acrolein. Rapid concentration measurements, relevant for disease diagnostics, are detectable with their improved protocol.
A problem with current acrolein assays (wherein the chemical product of the assay emits light) is that fluorescence from blood serum interferes with light emitted from the assay. This means that the chemical product of the assay must be separated from the blood serum (a somewhat slow process).
The scientists' detection molecule, based in part on europium metal, gets around this limitation because it emits light for milliseconds after illumination. This might not seem like a long time, but carbon-based molecules in blood serum only emit fluorescence for nanoseconds after illumination.
By measuring the emitted light as a function of time, one can not only eliminate the interfering fluorescence from blood serum, but also determine the concentration of acrolein in the sample. The assay requires only 30 minutes and 100°C temperatures, a mild (and safe) protocol.
Furthermore, even acrolein concentrations of as little as 1 micromolar were detected via the assay, possibly a bit less sensitive when the procedure is performed in blood serum. The acrolein concentration relevant for disease states is around this value, implying convenient use in a medical diagnostics setting.
Acrolein, a molecule that may serve as a useful indicator of stroke, heart disease, cancer, and many other medical conditions, can now be safely and rapidly detected in blood serum. This should accelerate studies aimed at utilizing acrolein in medical diagnostics.