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Microchip to detect cancer, other diseases

07 October 2009

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Canadian researchers have developed a new microchip using nanomaterials to detect cancer and other infectious diseases. The new device quickly picks up the cancer biomarkers that exist at low levels in cellular bodies and provides results within half-an-hour.

Toronto: In a major breakthrough in the detection of cancers and other deadly diseases, Canadian researchers have developed an inexpensive microchip that is sensitive enough to detect the type and severity of the illness.

The microchip has been successfully tested on prostate cancer, and head and neck cancer models. It can also be used to diagnose other cancers, as well as infectious diseases such as HIV and the H1N1 flu.

"The remarkable innovation is an indication that the age of nanomedicine is dawning"

Researchers at the University of Toronto here used nanomaterials for the first time to build the sensitive microchip. In their work reported in Nature Nanotechnology this week, the researchers say the new device will make sophisticated molecular diagnostics easily available soon.

"The remarkable innovation is an indication that the age of nanomedicine is dawning," President of the University of Toronto and Professor of medicine David Naylor was quoted as saying in a university statement.

The device quickly picks up the 'biomarkers' that hint at the presence of cancer at the cellular level, even though these biomolecules —genes that indicate aggressive or benign forms of the disease— are generally present at low levels in biological samples, the statement said.

Analysis can be completed in 30 minutes, compared to days taken by the current diagnostic procedures.

"Today, it takes a room filled with computers to evaluate a clinically relevant sample of cancer biomarkers and the results aren't quickly available," research leader and medicine Professor Shana Kelley said.

"Our team was able to measure biomolecules on an electronic chip the size of your fingertip and analyse the sample within half an hour. The instrumentation required for this analysis can be contained within a unit the size of a BlackBerry," she said.

Since the current conventional, flat metal electrical sensors are inadequate to sense cancer's particular biomarkers, the Toronto team fabricated a chip and decorated it with nanometre-sized wires and molecular 'bait' to make it more sensitive.

"By working with outstanding researchers in nanomaterials, pharmaceutical sciences, and electrical engineering, we were able to demonstrate that controlled integration of nanomaterials provides a major advantage in disease detection and analysis," he said.

Source : igovernment

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