WEDNESDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they have developed a microchip that can be attached to a smart phone and diagnose cancerous tumors within an hour, from the patient's bedside.
The so-called microNMR chip, which uses magnetic nanoparticles to measure proteins and other chemical compounds in tumors, requires only tiny amounts of tissue to make a diagnosis, researchers said. Instead of more invasive methods, the biopsy can be done with fine needle aspiration, which withdraws cells from suspicious lesions.
"We tried to determine a molecular fingerprint, if you will," said study co-author Jered B. Haun, a postdoctoral researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "It was a nice surprise just how well it worked with all the protein markers. One of our big goals was not only to be able to tell patients they have cancer as accurately as possible, but as quickly as possible."
The study, which was funded by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is published in the Feb. 23 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Using the microchip -- which can be hooked up to smart phones such as iPhones and Blackberrys -- researchers analyzed tissue samples from 50 patients with suspected malignancies, correctly diagnosing cancer in 44 patients within 60 minutes in 96 percent of cases by zoning in on four of nine protein markers.
In contrast, standard pathology methods typically require three or more days to produce a diagnosis and are only 84 percent accurate, the researchers noted.
Study participants, whose average age was 64, had suspicious lesions in a variety of organs, including the lungs, colon, pancreas, liver and breasts, and were already scheduled to receive biopsies for abnormal stomach tissue. Their results were validated with traditional pathology -- which also didn't assess differences in tumor cell type
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