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Quick and dirty biomarker detection

blood.jpgUS researchers have used nanosensors to spot early signs of cancer in unprocessed rat blood.

Nanosensors are already used to detect biomarkers like prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a protein that becomes elevated in men with prostate cancer, but these only work with purified solutions — not real body fluids. The purification process and chemical analysis can take days.

The new “Star Trek-style gadget”, as the Telegraph likes to call it, is an all-in-one filter plus detector that works in minutes, the researchers report in Nature Nanotechnology.

They injected biomarker-spiked rat blood into the device, captured the biomarkers, washed out gunk such as proteins and salts, and released the antigens into an elixir that flows over a nanosensor-covered chip. The group was able to detect PSA and the breast cancer biomarker carbohydrate antigen 15.3 (CA15.3) on the order of picograms per millilitre with 10% accuracy, which doesn’t sound very accurate but is a bit like finding a grain of sugar in a pool filled with Jell-O.

The chip still hasn’t made it out of the lab, but if it does the authors think it will be cheap enough to use in the clinic, rather than external labs (Press release)

More coverage

‘Nanosensors’ spot early signs of cancer – US News (Health Day)

Nanomaterial used in cancer tests, medicine delivery – AFP

Image credit: Flickr/<a href=http://www.flickr.com/photos/kthrn/2119663328/ target=_blank>kthrn

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