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Home News and Update Year 2010 Device Can Detect Cancer In Minutes

Device Can Detect Cancer In Minutes

Times of India
18 November 2010

US researchers have invented a new microdevice that can detect cancer from a single drop of blood making the existing system that takes weeks obsolete
Adam Woolley with his microchip that could speed up cancer detection Adam Woolley with his microchip that could speed up cancer detection
Researchers at Brigham Young University have created a micro device that could both decrease the amount of blood and time needed to test for cancer–markers in a patient’s blood.

Chemistry prof Adam Woolley’s research, published in a recent issue of the journal, Lab on a Chip, details the device and technique that would allow for effective detection of biomarkers in a blood sample in a matter of minutes rather than days or weeks.

"You could walk into the doctor’s office, the nurse could prick your finger instead of sticking a needle in your vein, and 30 or 40 minutes later, you’d get the results back in the same doctor’s office," Woolley said.

Better Than Elisa
Woolley said the current approach for detecting biomarkers, ELISA (enzymelinked immunosorbent assay), works well as long as you’re doing it in high volumes. This is why blood samples are usually sent to a lab where they can run dozens of samples at the same time.

And while ELISA is efficient and cost effective if, say, there are 90 blood samples to process, the micro device would allow a technician to look at just one sample quickly and cost–effectively to determine if there are markers for, say, breast cancer or prostate cancer.

The microchip researched and created by Woolley and student Weichun Yang could lead to effective testing for cancer–marking proteins with the use of only microlitres of blood instead of millilitres – a smaller sample by a factor of a thousand.

"Detecting cancer biomarkers in a point–of–care setting can significantly improve the throughput of cancer screening and diagnose a cancer tumour at its early stage," said Yang, lead author on the paper. "These devices provide a robust, quick, and portable system for early stage disease diagnosis."

While ELISA uses a series of antibodies as hooks to grab targeted proteins and identify them, Woolley’s method uses only one antibody step, which is then followed by a step where voltage is applied and the proteins are then identified by the speed at which they move.

The new micro device can also detect multiple cancer biomarkers in blood simultaneously. In this particular round of research, Woolley and his team used the chip to detect four biomarkers simultaneously, but the device has the potential to detect upwards of 10 or 20. Woolley said he and his team are now looking at ways to speed up the biomarker detection process even more. Ideally, he’d like to get the 30– to 40–minute process down to 20, 15 or even 10 minutes.

"If you learn from your doctor that you might have a life–threatening disease and that some initial testing must be performed, you don’t want to wait weeks to find out what’s going on," Woolley said. "You’d like to know that very day."

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