Now, it may be possible to detect cancer years in advance
New York, Aug 17: It may now be possible to detect cancer many years before the symptoms surface with scientists having invented a technique that could detect a wide range of biomarkers which signal the start of cancer.
MicroRNA, a nucleic acid like DNA, is present in plants and animals. Out of the thousands of identified sequences, a subset is highly elevated in a number of human cancers. They are found in blood, urine and saliva, and detecting them is a high priority for biomedical researchers.
At present, detecting them from a blood test requires going to a clinic. Now, researchers from University of Rhode Island (URI) in the US have their sights set on continuous home monitoring that could generate automatic alerts.
Using carbon nanotubes - tiny needle-like hollow cylinders 100,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair - researchers have engineered nano-biosensors that can easily be implanted under skin. The procedure is relatively noninvasive compared to, say, surgical biopsy, they said.
"We could detect a signal from deep within a mouse," said Daniel Roxbury, assistant professor at URI.
"It is certainly a monumental step. The next stage would be to construct some kind of wearable device, maybe a wristwatch, that incorporates this technology," said Roxbury. The research was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.