Researchers at the University of Utah have developed a rapid and highly portable liver cancer screening test, that can be administered anywhere.
One of the biggest challenges in treating liver cancer is that often symptoms don’t appear until the disease is in the later stages, meaning it is important that people are tested rapidly when doctors suspect they might have it. At the moment, testing for liver cancer involves sending a blood sample to a hospital lab, which could take weeks to return the results. The testing also typically requires patients to undergo ultrasound imaging, which is difficult for people living in remote and low-resource settings.
This problem inspired researchers at the University of Utah to design a portable liver cancer test, based on a technique called surface-enhanced Raman scattering, that can be administered anywhere and provide results within just a few minutes. The test is designed to detect a protein biomarker of liver cancer in a droplet of blood, saliva, or urine. “The concept is similar to a home pregnancy test,” says Jennifer Granger, a researcher involved in the study.
The test consists of a small domino-sized plastic cartridge that contains a small membrane. A doctor adds the patient sample to the membrane, which in turn traps the biomarker if it is present. Next, the doctor adds a droplet of gold nanoparticles that bind to the protein biomarker, causing a red color change in the membrane, and signaling that the patient could have the disease.
A handheld spectrometer could be used to quantify exactly how much of the biomarker is present, providing data on the severity of the disease. The team is working to get the cost of the test down to about $3 per test.
Study in journal Analytical Methods: Coupling solid-phase microextractions and surface-enhanced Raman scattering: towards a point-of-need tool for hepatic cancer screening…
Via: University of Utah…