John A. Viator, Ph.D, associate professor of biomedical engineering and dermatology at the University of Missouri, has developed a new technology, that combines light and sound, to detect melanoma. It actually spots circulating tumor cells that are markers for cancer, which provides an early warning signal before actual tumors develop, potentially helping physicians deal with the disease at an earlier, more manageable stage.
From an announcement by the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS):
The new photoacoustic melanoma detection device emits laser light into enriched blood cell samples consisting of millions of white blood cells and possibly cancer cells. The light is absorbed only by the melanin within the cancer cells and generates high frequency acoustic responses that are picked up by sensors in a photoacoustic flow meter. The result is immediate detection of melanoma cells—before deadly tumors show up.
“We literally listen to the cancer cells passing by,” Viator explains. The ASLMS research grant helped Viator extend the technique to other cancer types by labeling these cells with nanoparticles for optical contrast. Then the cell samples are separated into discrete small droplets separated by air bubbles for easier scanning and detection of both melanoma and non-melanoma cancer cells. Each microliter sized droplet is irradiated by laser and checked for the presence of cancer cells. The droplets that generate photoacoustic waves contain cancer cells and are separated for further analysis. Droplets that do not emit photoacoustic waves contain only white blood cells and are discarded.
Link to announcement: New Laser Technology Will Speed Up Detection of Deadly Melanoma…