New lab-on-a-chip device to detect cancer faster & nbsp | & nbspPhoto Credit: & nbspThinkstock
New York: In a major breakthrough, US researchers have developed a "lab-on-a-chip" device that allows doctors to detect cancer faster, cheaper and less invasive from a droplet of blood or plasma, which allows for quick interventions and better results for patients.
The lab-on-chip for "liquid biopsy" analysis detects exosomes – tiny packages of biological information produced by tumor cells to stimulate tumor growth or metastasize.
It was previously believed that exosomes were "garbage bags" that cells use to empty unwanted cellular contents. However, scientists understood that tumors could be very useful for sending exosome packaging molecules that reflect the biological characteristics of parental cells.
The new lab-on-chip, developed by a team led by Yong Zeng, associate professor at the University of Kansas, is a 3D nano-engineering method that mixes and detects biological elements based on a pattern in fishbone that we commonly find in nature.
It pushes exosomes much more effectively in contact with the chip's detection surface in a process called mass transfer.
"As the particles get closer to the surface of the sensor, they are separated by a small space of liquid that creates increasing hydrodynamic resistance," said Zeng.
"We have developed here a 3D nanoporous chevron structure capable of draining the liquid in this space to bring the particles into hard contact with the surface, where the probes can recognize them and capture them," he said in an article published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
To develop and test the innovative microfluidic device, the team tested the design of the chip with the help of clinical samples of patients with ovarian cancer. The discovery of the chip could detect the presence of cancer in a tiny amount of plasma.
The new microfluidic chips would also be cheaper and easier to manufacture than comparable designs, allowing for larger and less expensive tests for patients.
According to Zeng, with the now proven microfluidic chip design using ovarian cancer as a model, the chip could be useful for detecting a multitude of other diseases.
"Almost all mammalian cells release exosomes, so the application is not limited to ovarian cancer or any type of cancer, we work with people to look at neurodegenerative diseases, breast cancer and colorectal, for example. "