30 Minutes to Detect Cancer: A Revolutionary Technology

What would you say if someone told you that cancer could now be detected in 30 minutes flat? What if someone told you that one needn’t go through a biopsy to detect cancer? Your fears would cut to some extent, wouldn’t it? That’s exactly what scientists and engineers at the University of Toronto have sought to do.

Developing a prototype microchip that uses nano materials, the Canadian researchers prove that it could detect the presence of cancer quickly and, hence, help in effective treatment. Not only this, the chip can also establish the type and the severity of cancer in a patient.

Earlier, the process of cancer detection would take days. It would involve a lot of computers trying to test a sample of cancer biomarkers and the results would not be readily available. In comparison to this, the use of the microchip to detect cancer is a brilliant revolutionary technology. It is an innovation that is going to open doors to several other ground-breaking discoveries.

This is how the innovative device came to take birth. The engineering team at the University of Toronto knew that biomarkers or biomolecules are present only at very low concentrations in patient samples. They realized that these couldn’t be detected by conventional metal electrical sensors and, hence, had to work to develop a chip that could detect these biomarkers. They did this by adding nanometre-sized wires and a molecular bait to the chip to make it more sensitive. According to co-researcher, Ted Sargent, when a sample, like a urine sample, was introduced on top of the chip, there was a binding between the bait and their target. When a marker wasn’t present, they would know that they had detected cancer. Biomarkers would also reveal whether a particular cancer treatment is working. According to him, uniting DNA with speedy, miniaturised electronic chips is an example of cross-disciplinary convergence.

The chip is currently in its engineering stage. This means that attempts are being made to create a portable device that can conduct this task. The instrumentation required for this analysis, according to a researcher, can be contained within a unit the size of a BlackBerry.

An additional remarkable thing about this is that the making of the chip cost the researchers only $20. Not only that, the price would definitely reduce considering that this technology is going to reach a commercial level. Thus, not only is this innovation a faster technique but it is also a cost-effective one likely to be used anywhere.

The researchers have also revealed that the microchip can be used to diagnose other infectious diseases such as HIV or H1N1 flu. This is because biomarkers are not unique to cancer.

Landmark inventions such as these are terrific, not only for the fast-growing world but also for science in general. They would change the future of medicine and for the better. Detecting cancer in 30 minutes flat is exceptional. It would not only make the treatment of cancer more effective but also cut anxiety levels of patients by eliminating the waiting time that they endure during cancer diagnoses. Having a device that can sense the presence of cancer with an effective combination of sensitivity, speed and accuracy is one-of-a-kind.

Cancer is such a dreaded disease. Taking the necessary precautions and preventing it is the most important step that one, as an individual, must take. But if the disease somehow gets the better of one, a device to detect it could bring down matters to an effective level still. This discovery in disease detection and analysis is great for mankind and is part of an age where nano-medicine shows its worth.

Meghna Menon