Scientists have developed a new ultra-sensitive nano-chip that can detect cancer at early stages which is key to the successful diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
The "lab-on-a-chip" platform is capable of detecting protein cancer markers in the blood using the very latest advances in plasmonics, nano-fabrication, microfluids and surface chemistry.
The device developed by an international team of researchers, led by the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Castelldefelsis Spain, is able to detect very low concentrations of protein cancer markers in blood, enabling diagnoses of the disease in its earliest stages.
The detection of cancer in its very early stages is seen as key to the successful diagnosis and treatment of this disease, researchers said.
Although very compact (only a few square centimetres), the lab-on-a-chip hosts various sensing sites distributed across a network of fluidic micro-channels that enables it to conduct multiple analyses.
Gold nano-particles lie on the surface of the chip and are chemically programed with an antibody receptor in such a way that they are capable of specifically attracting the protein markers circulating in blood.
When a drop of blood is injected into the chip, it circulates through the micro-channels and if cancer markers are present in the blood, they will stick to the nano-particles located on the micro-channels as they pass by, setting off changes in what is known as the "plasmonic resonance".
The device monitors these changes, the magnitude of which are directly related to the concentration/number of markers in the patient blood thus providing a direct assessment of the risk for the patient to develop a cancer.
"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," said Professor Romain Quidant from the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Castelldefels.