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Detect pancreatic cancer with a credit-card sized device in minutes

Cancer device

Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, are developing a credit-card sized device that could help diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier and faster

Cancer deviceWashington: Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, are developing a credit-card sized device that could help diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier and faster.

Routine screenings for breast, colon and lung cancers have improved treatment and outcomes for patients with these diseases, largely because the cancer can be detected early.

Since little is known about how pancreatic cancer behaves, patients often receive a diagnosis when it’s already too late. University of Washington scientists are developing a low-cost device that could help pathologists diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier and faster.

The prototype can perform the basic steps for processing a biopsy, relying on fluid transport instead of human hands to process the tissue. The team has filed a patent for the device and future technology advancements.

“This new process is expected to help the pathologist make a more rapid diagnosis and be able to determine more accurately how invasive the cancer has become, leading to improved prognosis,” said Eric Seibel, a UW research professor of mechanical engineering and director of the department’s Human Photonics Laboratory.

The new instrumentation would essentially automate and streamline the manual, time-consuming process a pathology lab goes through to diagnose cancer. Currently, a pathologist takes a biopsy tissue sample, then sends it to the lab where it’s cut into thin slices, stained and put on slides, then analysed optically in 2-D for abnormalities.

The UW’s technology would process and analyse whole tissue biopsies for 3-D imaging, which offers a more complete picture of the cellular makeup of a tumor, said Ronnie Das, a UW postdoctoral researcher in bioengineering. The research team is building a thick, credit card-sized, flexible device out of silicon that allows a piece of tissue to pass through tiny channels and undergo a series of steps that replicate what happens on a much larger scale in a pathology lab.

The device harnesses the properties of microfluidics, which allows tissue to move and stop with ease through small channels without needing to apply a lot of external force. It also keeps clinicians from having to handle the tissue; instead, a tissue biopsy taken with a syringe needle could be deposited directly into the device to begin processing.

Researchers said this is the first time material larger than a single-celled organism has successfully moved in a microfluidic device. Researchers said the technology could be used overseas as an over-the-counter kit that would process biopsies, then send that information to pathologists who could look for signs of cancer from remote locations.

Additionally, it could potentially reduce the time it takes to diagnose cancer to a matter of minutes, they said.


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