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Smartphone device for cancer diagnostics

Smartphone device for cancer diagnostics

Identifying cancerous tissues with your smartphone will soon be possible, according to scientists of the Massachusetts General Hospital. They developed a device that can be connected to smartphones enabling the analysis of blood and tissue samples. This is especially convenient for doctors in remote areas who have no access to laboratory facilities, the investigators write in PNAS Early Edition.

The digital diffraction diagnosis system (3D system) functions through the acquisition of detailed microscopic pictures of cells. First, the patient material is incubated with microbeads which specifically bind to cancer-associated molecules and cause diffraction, the bending of light waves.  The 3D system measures the diffraction patterns and is able to determine the amount of tissue-bound microbeads and thus to assess the presence of cancerous cells. For analysis, the acquired data is transmitted to a remote graphic-processing server via an encrypted cloud service and afterwards returned to the submitter.

"The emerging genomic and biological data for various cancers, which can be essential for choosing the most appropriate therapy, supports the need for molecular profiling strategies that are more accessible to providers, clinical investigators and patients”, says one of the authors, Cesar Castro, investigator at the MGH Cancer Center and Center for Systems Biology. The research group hopes to achieve this goal by connecting their application to the ubiquitous smartphone. The analysis costs $1.80 and results are available in under an hour.

The 3D system has already been tested on cervical biopsy samples from women with abnormal PAP smears and turned out to match the accuracy of the regular molecular profiling assays. Additionally, the device could identify the presence of human papillomavirus DNA in infected cells. The researchers are now working on optimising and expanding the features of the smartphone device. Among others, new proteins and DNA markers are integrated into the system. The device has yet to be tested on-site.

Sources: Eurekalert en PNAS Early Edition

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