A team of experts at the Yale University has recently announced that it has developed a new series of nanosensors, a class of devices that is able to analyze whole blood samples, and detect the presence of cancer biomarkers in them. The latter are chemical agents that tumors and cancer cells produce, and their existence in the body can only mean one thing. The amazing achievement could soon enable physicians to cut the cancer-detection process short, leaving more time for the actual treatments.
“Nanosensors have been around for the past decade, but they only worked in controlled, laboratory settings. This is the first time we’ve been able to use them with whole blood, which is a complicated solution containing proteins and ions and other things that affect detection,” the Yale Harold Hodgkinson Professor of Engineering & Applied Science, Mark Reed, explains. He has also been one of the co-leaders of the investigation, alongside Associate Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering Tarek Fahmy, also from the university.
Biomarkers that are usually produced in prostate and breast cancer were the main targets of the new investigation. The team constructed the nanosensors out of nanowires, a feat that enabled them to detect and measure the concentrations of both types of markers. This was only made possible by a revolutionary, new device the Yale group designed. The filter captures antigens specific to prostate and breast cancer on a small chip, while washing away all of the excess blood. This allows for a highly accurate detection process, the experts say.
“Doctors could have these small, portable devices in their offices and get nearly instant readings. They could also carry them into the field and test patients on site,” Fahmy believes. “The advantage of this technology is that it takes the same effort to make a million devices as it does to make just one. We’ve brought the power of modern microelectronics to cancer detection,” Reed adds. Details of the innovative system appear online, in the December 13 advanced issue of the respected scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology. Scientists from the Cornell University and the Harvard University have also been involved in the work.