In the not too distant future, testing for certain cancers may be completed in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Scrubs. A new portable device, expected to be about the size of a paperback book, works by detecting biomarkers in the blood, substances that suggest that a patient is diseased. The sensor, which uses nanotechnology, is so accurate that it could pick up a grain of salt in a swimming pool, claim the researchers [Telegraph]. With just a small amount of blood and 20 minutes, doctors can have an electronic read out of biomarker concentrations at their fingertips. The research, led by Mark Reed at Yale University, may lead to quick, easy, and low-cost cancer tests.
Reed says the technology would be ideal for measuring lung cancer biomarkers in a phlegm sample, or colon or ovarian cancer biomarkers in a blood sample, making their technology the first to measure biomarkers from normal samples of bodily fluids. Previous technologies work in much the same way, but can only detect biomarkers in purified solutions, not the real thing — meaning fluid samples from patients [U.S. News and World Report]. The applications aren’t limited to cancer biomarker measurements; the researchers say they could also measure cardiovascular disease biomarkers in small blood samples. The scientists have published their research in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
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Image: Mark Reed / Yale University