Scientists from the University of Kansas (KU) and KU Cancer Center have developed a device that can screen hard-to-detect cancers. Known as the 3-D Nanopatterned Microfluid Chip, this ultrasensitive equipment distinguishes subtle indications of cancer in the plasma undetectable by standard microfluidic systems of biosensing.
Exosomes and Cancer
The tool interprets biological information contained in the exosomes to detect growth and spread of tumors. Lead author and KU Associate Professor Yong Zeng explained that tumor cells are more active compared to normal cells. “Tumors send out exosomes packaging active molecules that mirror the biological features of the parental cells,” he added.
During the clinical trials, the chip was able to identify biomarkers of the undetectable ovarian cancer in tiny amounts of plasma samples. Dr. Zeng’s team designed a 3-D nanoporous herringbone structure to decrease hydrodynamic resistance for the mass transfer process. The tool then drained plasma fluid to separate the particles for the interpretation.
Better and More Affordable Tools
The team collaborated with KU Cancer Center’s Deputy Director Andrew Godwin in developing the tool. They claim that current microfluidic methods are constrained by boundary conditions. Microscale mass transfer and interfacial exosome binding processes are fundamentally limited.
Their next step is to move the device from the laboratory to more clinical applications. The team believes this is feasible as the device is affordable and easy to use. According to Dr. Zeng, their method doesn’t need any “fancy” nanofabrication equipment. He affirms that the production, distribution, and operational cost is inexpensive.
The human body has ways of communicating adverse occurrences. In the case of cancer, it’s only a matter of prevention and early detection that reduces fatality. Extensive researches are devoted to advance diagnostic tools and treatment methods to overcome current limitations. Hopefully, developments like the 3-D Nanopatterned Microfluid Chip can exceed the projected number of cancer survivors by 2030.