New Cancer Screening May Help Detect Mesothelioma

Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology report that they have “created an acoustic sensor that can report the presence of small amounts of mesothelin, a molecule associated with a number of cancers including mesothelioma, as they attach to the sensor? surface.”

According to an article in Science Daily, these cancer-sensing devices, which can be built quite inexpensively, could “change the way physicians detect, treat, and monitor cancer patients.” The researchers say the device demonstrates a technique that might work for the detection of nearly any biomarker ““ a molecular signal that denotes the presence of a disease.

“It is one thing to be able to identify biomarkers for a disease, but it is another to be able to find them in blood quickly and easily at very low concentrations,” said Anthony Dickherber, a graduate student in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech. “We envision that, one day, doctors can use an array of our sensors as a sort of laboratory in their office, where they could use a quick blood sample to detect or monitor the signs of cancer.”

The device could also save the healthcare industry plenty of money by allowing doctors to screen for disease by using this inexpensive device rather than more costly diagnostic tools such as MRIs and CT scans.
According to the article, the device, dubbed the ACuRayâ„¢, consists of a series of electrodes deposited on the surface of a thin film of zinc oxide, which allows the device to resonate, or vibrate, at a specific frequency when a current is applied, much like the quartz timing devices used in many clocks and watches.

The sensor itself is built on a base of silicon, like a computer chip, and could be mass-produced using very well known and inexpensive microelectronic fabrication techniques,?Dickherber said.

It is really an elegant engineering solution to a very complicated problem,?said research adviser William Hunt, a professor of electrical and computer at Georgia Tech and lead researcher on the project. ?e could, for example, detect a number of different markers for a single disease on a single chip no bigger than the tip of a fountain pen. With refinement, this technology could readily lead to an inexpensive, ubiquitous technology for researchers, physicians and the clinical laboratory.?

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