Cancer detection in minutes? New device measures biomarker exosomes on a chip

Esfandiari and her team created this
Esfandiari and her team created this "lab-on-a-chip" as an early test for cancer. Credit: Corrie Mayer/Ceas Marketing

Leyla Esfandiari Ph.D., is an assistant professor [at the University of Cincinnati’s] College of Engineering and Applied Science. She has a patent pending on a small chip device allowing doctors to get [cancer test] results in less than 30 minutes.

“It’s going to be faster, cheaper and more reliable,” Esfandiari says of her lab-on-a-chip. “The most important thing from the patient’s point of view is that it’s going to be minimally invasive. They are not going to take a tissue biopsy. They are going to get some blood or saliva.”

The device uses biomarkers called exosomes, or cell-secreted nanoscale extracellular vesicles. Typical tests also use exosomes, but they are difficult to extract from fluids, which is how researchers identify markers that indicate cancer (and other diseases), and require bulky machines and lots of fluids.

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It could also help with personalized medicine by extracting and using exosomes to deliver medicines back to the body.

“The whole idea is that you extract the exosomes from an individual’s blood … and then you add a specific drug or microRNA or a different type of reagent into them, and you put it back into the blood to circulate into your system and deliver the drug into the right location,” says Esfandiari.

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