Sina, A. A. L. et al. Nat. Commun. 9, 4915 (2018).

Cancer genomes often have distinct methylation patterns, and these methylation patterns can be used as generic cancer markers. However, the effects of this methylation on the physicochemical properties of DNA have not been fully explored. Sina et al. found that the distribution of genome methylation has a strong effect on DNA solvation properties, which in turn change the way DNA adsorbs onto a gold surface. The team leveraged this finding and developed an electrochemical assay for cancer discrimination. In addition to the change in DNA solvation, they also noted the difference in DNA–gold affinity between normal and cancerous genomes. They thus simplified the electrochemical assay into a gold-particle-based colorimetric assay that does not require complicated sample preparation and can be completed within ten minutes using a plasma-derived cell-free DNA sample.