Lab-on-a-chip Detects Cancer Early and On the Cheap

A new lab-on-a-chip could make early stage cancer diagnosis much easier and ubiquitous, saving many lives.

medicine, cancer, blood, detectionScientists at the Institute of Photonic Sciences (IFCO) have created a lab-on-a-chip device that can detect cancer using a single drop of blood.

Built to sniff out protein markers that are the signature of cancerous cells, the new device is incredibly reliable, simple to build and cheap to manufacture. Using a network of micro-channels filed with a specific antibody receptor and gold nanoparticles, the lab-on-a-chip can separate a single drop of blood into a number of different streams.

If, after being channeled, blood in any stream begins to bind itself to the gold nanoparticles, researchers will have proof positive that cancerous proteins markers are present in the patient.  Given the fact that most cancer diagnosis are made after tumors have already formed the new IFCO chip could represent a breakthrough in early-stage cancer diagnosis.

While the design of IFCO’s device is clever, Professor Romain Quidant, lead researcher on the project, singled out the machine’s excellent performance as it’s most remarkable feature: “The most fascinating finding is that we are capable of detecting extremely low concentrations of this protein in a matter of minutes, making this device an ultra-high sensitivity, state-of-the-art, powerful instrument that will benefit early detection and treatment monitoring of cancer.”

Given the low cost nature of the IFCO chip, it’s possible that this new device could improve the ease of cancer diagnosis in remote areas. Beyond that, a chip like IFCO’s could be built directly into a communication device and used to update your health on a daily or weekly basis. With a tool like that in nearly every hand it’s likely cancer mortality rates would steadily decrease.


Image Courtesy of IFCO