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Startup Aims to Find Cancer with miRNAs

By assessing the microRNAs floating in a person's blood, startup Miroculus aims to aid in the early diagnosis of cancer, Wired reports.

Fay Christodoulou and her colleagues formed Miroculus after meeting at the Silicon Valley incubator Singularity University to make a low-cost, open-source diagnostic they called Miriam. Their goal is for untrained workers in clinics around the world to be able to use Miriam to screen for cancer.

Miriam relies on a 96-well plate coated to trap certain miRNAs that have been extracted from the blood sample. If the miRNA is present a well, it glows and that information is read by a cloud-based system

"We're talking about a decentralized system; the main challenge is to make it robust enough so it can be done by an untrained person anywhere in the world in not-so-optimal laboratory conditions," Christodoulou says.

Muneesh Tewari from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center cautions, though, that miRNA biomarkers can be affected by other health and environmental factors that the Miroculus will have to take into account. Additionally, he notes that there is increasing concern about over-diagnosis of cancer. Still, he tells Wired that such a point-of-care system "could really be potentially transformative."

The Scan

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