The wait for cancer-screening test results can be "nerve-racking," says Technology Review's Jennifer Chu. But a new handheld device developed by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School could shorten the wait. The device plugs into a smart phone and can produce test results in an hour, Chu says. The tool takes a small tissue sample and analyzes it for cancer proteins. "When the latest prototype was tested on 50 patients with gastric-related cancer, it detected malignancies with 96 percent accuracy — better than existing laboratory-based tissue-sampling tests," Chu says. The study's results were published in Science Translational Medicine. The device reduced the possibility for human error, which could explain the efficiency and accuracy, the researchers say. It contains a microchip that houses a solution of magnetic nanoparticles, Chu says. The researchers identified 11 proteins commonly expressed by abdominal cancers and attached a corresponding ligand to each nanoparticle. "The device creates a magnetic field and uses it to determine which proteins had locked onto the nanoparticles. The device needs to detect only four out of the 11 proteins to achieve its 96 percent rate of accuracy, in a process that takes just about an hour," Chu adds.
There's an App for That?
Mar 03, 2011