Researchers at Yale University
have developed a new
method of detecting cancer biomarkers in whole blood for breast
cancer and for prostate cancer. The team of researchers used nanowire
sensors to measure the concentrations of two biomarkers for the
The research team is led by Mark Reed, The Harold
Hodgkinson Professor of Engineering & Applied Science, and
associate professor of biomedical and chemical engineering Tarek
Reed said, "Nanosensors have been around for the
past decade, but they only worked in controlled, laboratory settings.
This is the first time we've been able to use them with whole blood,
which is a complicated solution containing proteins and ions and
other things that affect detection."
Using the nanowire
sensors, the researchers were able to detect the cancer specific
antigens with 10 percent accuracy in concentrations as low as
picograms per milliliter. That doesn't sound particularly accurate
until you realize that the detection of the antigens in
concentrations this small is like being able to find a single grain
of salt in a swimming pool.
The device developed by the
researchers is a bit like a filter that catches the biomarkers on a
chip and washes away the remainder of the blood. The nanowire sensors
can also be used to detect other biomarkers for conditions like
cardiovascular disease all at once. Before this process, the
detection of biomarkers requires sending the blood to a lab in a
process that took several days to complete. Using the new method
developed at Yale the process takes minutes.
"Doctors could have these small, portable devices in their
offices and get nearly instant readings. They could also carry them
into the field and test patients on site."