New Lab-On-A-Chip Detects Cancer In Very Early Stages


Lab-On-A-Chip cancer detector: Image Credit:  ICFO - The Institute of Photonic SciencesLab-On-A-Chip cancer detector: Image Credit: ICFO - The Institute of Photonic SciencesAn international group of inter-disciplinary scientists in oncology, plasmonics, nano-fabrication, microfluids, and surface chemistry have developed a detection device that can identify cancer in the blood long before any detection device available now. Though many years and many scientists have contributed to its development, the cancer detector and tracker is deceptively simple-looking and fits on a chip that's only a few square centimeters in size.

Led by researchers at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Castelldefels (ICFO), Spain, the researchers developed the lab-on-a-chip with gold nano-particles on its surface that are chemically programmed with anitibody receptors specifically designed to attract protein markers for cancer in the blood.  When a blood droplet is placed on the surface of the chip, it travels through the chip's microchanels.  The cancer proteins stick to receptors on the microchannels as they pass by, setting of a 'plasmodic resonance' equivalent to the amount of cancer proteins present in the sample.  Thus, the lab-on-a-chip not only identifies the presence of cancer protein in the blood, but a measurement of it as well.

Because the chip is able to detect extremely small amounts of cancer proteins in the blood, it can identify a patient's risk long before a tumor has developed and, probably, long before any other test would identify its presence.  As early treatment is the best treatment, the lab-on-a-chip could be a life-saver for many patients. 

ICREA Professor at ICFO Romain Quidant, coordinator of the project, said that "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."

The development of lab-on-a-chip was supported by the Cellex Foundation, Barcelona, and the SPEDOC (Surface Plasmon Early Detection of Circulating Heat Shock Proteins and Tumor Cells) project, and was funded by the Seventh Framework Program (FP7) of the European Commission. 


Sources: Eurekalert, ACS Journal