New Microchip-Based Device Can Put an End to Painful Biopsies

TORONTO – Canadian experts at the University of Toronto have come up with a microchip technology that they believe can prove helpful in diagnosing cancer and infectious disease in just half an hour.

Just as big in size as a BlackBerry, the novel device is expected to revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of cancers and other ailments.

The researchers say that it is aimed at eliminating the need for painful biopsies by detecting the presence and severity of cancer via a urine sample.

They hope that their device will also eliminate equally painful wait times that patients undergoing cancer diagnoses routinely endure, as test results computed by it can be completed in just 30 minutes.

“Today, it takes a room filled with computers to evaluate a clinically relevant sample of cancer biomarkers and the results aren’t quickly available,” the Globe and Mail quoted Shana Kelley, the U of T professor who was a lead investigator on the project, as saying.

“Our team was able to measure biomolecules on an electronic chip the size of your fingertip and analyze the sample within half an hour,” Kelley added.

The device, though in the engineering phase, has been tested on prostate cancer and head and neck cancer models.

The university team believe that it may potentially be used to diagnose and assess other cancers, besides detecting infectious diseases like HIV, MRSA and H1N1 flu.

“The system…is a revolutionary technology that could allow us to track biomarkers that might have significant relevance to cancer, with a combination of speed, sensitivity, and accuracy not available with any current technology. This type of approach could have a profound impact on the future management for our cancer patients,” says Dr. Fei-Fei Liu, a radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital and Head of the Applied Molecular Oncology Division at the Ontario Cancer Institute.

A research paper describing the novel device has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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