"Bionic Nose" Detects Microscopic Signs of Cancer

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Chemists from Tel Aviv University, Israel, have developed a solution to detecting cancer cells in trace amounts that are too small for conventional techniques.

Chemists from Tel Aviv University, Israel, have developed a solution to detecting cancer cells in trace amounts that are too small for conventional techniques. Using molecular techniques in nanotechnology, Doron Shabat of TAU's Raymond and Beverly Sackler School of Chemistry developed new molecules that can identify targeted cancer biomarkers and amplify the weak traces of these “hidden” molecules tenfold, thus making them noticeable to physicians.

Shabat hopes to develop the technology to the point that it can amplify signals millions or even billions of times stronger than normal. “We are developing a molecular system that amplifies certain events,” he said. “That way we’ll be able to respond faster to medical, security and environmental threats. In effect, our device can amplify just about any chemical system that has a certain kind of reactivity… It has the potential to help doctors diagnose diseases—–those with biomarkers, and enzymatic activities that are compatible with our molecular probe. The long list includes a few kinds of cancer, as well, including prostate cancer. But it also has applications for testing for impurities in water. It has both biological and non-biological applications.”

To determine if biomarkers are present in a sample, a chemist would add trace amounts of a test material—a biopsy for example—into Shabat’s solution and watch for the color of the solution to change, indicating the presence of the targeted material, in this case cancer. A prototype is current ready, which Shabat plans to use to “amplify” problems across the globed, including chemicals to make bombs and water pollutants.

View the press release from Tel Aviv University.

Numerous potential cancer detection, prevention, or treatment solutions make their way into the news each year. Do you think Shabat’s solution will ever see it’s way into day-to-day practice as a standard cancer diagnosis? What potential could it hold for you and your patients? Share your thoughts with your peers and get a dialog started by posting a comment below.

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