Researchers at McMaster and Brock universities in Canada have developed a hand-held device that can provide rapid measurements of cancer biomarkers in blood samples. Termed an electrochemical bio‐barcode assay, the device could be used to measure a variety of health markers at home, and is similar to the devices used by patients with diabetes to measure blood glucose levels.
Monitoring and detecting disease using blood-based biomarkers typically requires a blood sample to be sent to a laboratory and potentially days or weeks before a result is available. Moreover, such labs are packed with expensive and bulky equipment. A point-of-care, sample-in, result-out system would be preferable in the vast majority of situations. Now a group of researchers has developed such a device, and has demonstrated that it can work to detect a well known cancer biomarker, prostate specific antigen (PSA).
To check their levels of this biomarker, a user would mix a drop of their blood with a small volume of reactive liquid, and then add this to a strip that can then be inserted into the reader, which provides a result within a few minutes. The system can be paired with a smartphone to allow a user to view the results.
“This is another step toward truly personalized medicine,” said Leyla Soleymani, a researcher involved in the study. “We’re getting away from centralized, lab-based equipment for this kind of testing. This would make monitoring much more accessible and cut down on the number of times patients need to leave home to provide blood samples.”
The system involves DNA/antibody complexes that bind to the target protein in the sample. This avoids the need for long multi-step assays that require time and bulky equipment, and will work with unprocessed human plasma samples. So far, as a proof-of-concept, the system has been shown to work to detect a wide range of concentrations of PSA in human plasma, but the technology may work for other disease-specific biomarkers with some modification.
The researchers plan to conduct further testing of the system, before applying for regulatory approval and pursuing commercialization. “Once commercialized, this device will be a paradigm shift for cancer diagnosis and prognosis,” said Feng Li, another researcher involved in the study. “Since this device is a lot more accessible and user-friendly than conventional technologies, patients will be more willing to use it, which can improve clinical outcomes and save lives.”
Via: McMaster University