This Ultra-sensitive Sensor can Detect Early Stage Cancer Cells in Blood

Diagnosis of cancer uses invasive tests and tiresome procedures, and even then detection of cancer cells goes amiss, especially if it is in its early stages. Curing cancer has always been a challenge for specialists, mainly because detection occurs only in the later stages of the disease, when dire symptoms begin to surface.

Priscila Kosaka, a Brazilian scientist at the Microelectronics Institute of Madrid, has been working on a technology that could detect presence of cancer cells in the body before any symptoms occur. It is a hybrid mechanical and optoplasmonic nanosensor that can detect cancer cells using protein bio-markers in blood.Priscila Kosaka optoplasmonic nanosensor 2


Kosaka, who has a PhD in Chemistry, has been working on this ultra-sensitive sensor that can detect Cancer when it comes in contact with blood. It uses Bio-recognition, which is the detection and use of chemical compounds in biological fluids to ascertain their state and detect disease. The sensor is capable of using a very small sample to detect cancerous molecules. The study, published in Nature explains, “[Early detection of disease] requires sensors capable of detecting (with high reproducibility) biomarkers at concentrations one million times lower than the concentration of the other blood proteins. Here, we show that a sandwich assay that combines mechanical and optoplasmonic transduction can detect cancer biomarkers in serum at ultralow concentrations.”

By combining these two technologies, the sensor houses antibodies on its surface that react with cancer cells in the blood sample, and become heavier. In the four years it has been under study and development, Kosaka has engineered the sensor to change color and shine when cancer cells are detected, making the diagnosis easily discernible.Priscila Kosaka optoplasmonic nanosensor

It is claimed that the device has an error rate of just two in every 10 thousand cases; however, a full-scale commercial testing has not yet been performed on the prototype. Presently, it is also expensive to manufacture and can not be made available in the market. Another 10 years of development are estimated before it would be commercially viable to manufacture and use in routine exams.

Kosaka’s sensor will be a huge advancement, eliminating painful procedures like biopsies and time consuming ones like MRIs, currently employed for cancer detection.

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