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Detect cancer before a tumor forms

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Prof. Muthukumaran Packirisamy and doctoral student Srinivas Bathini explain that their so-called microfluidic technology, also called lab-on-a-chip, uses magnetic particles to detect suspected biomarkers even before the formation of a first tumor.

This technique makes it possible to establish a very early diagnosis of cancer, which can help us find treatment solutions and improve the lives of patients., explains in a press release Prof. Packirisamy, who is also director of the Laboratory of Optical Biomicrosystems at Concordia.

The earlier it is detected, the better

By the time a person is diagnosed, the cancer is often at an advanced stage and has spread throughout the body as metastases.

This reality dramatically reduces the chances of survival for patients.

The new method is based on a liquid biopsy which therefore incorporates lab-on-a-chip technology.

Using magnetic particles coated with a specially designed binding agent, the liquid biopsy chip attracts and somehow traps particles containing carcinogenic biomarkers, say the authors of this work published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics (New window) (in English).

Trap the messenger

The biopsy chip targets extracellular vesicles (EVs), a type of particle released by most organic cells that act as intercellular messengers.

These vesicles are extremely small. They are generally only between 40 and 200 nanometers in size.

However, they carry a whole load of proteins, nucleic acids such as RNA, metabolites and other molecules from the parent cell, and are then taken up by other cells., explains the press release.

EVs may also contain biomarkers associated with cancer and spread their toxic cargo from cell to cell.

The chip therefore targets exosomes that carry cancer. It contains magnetic or gold nanoparticles coated with a synthetic polypeptide which serve as a molecular binding agent.

Then, as soon as a droplet of organic liquid (blood, saliva, urine) comes into contact with the chip, the exosomes attach themselves to the treated nanoparticles.

The researchers then separate them from the nanoparticles and perform an analysis (proteomics and genomics) to determine the precise type of cancer.

Many advantages

Liquid biopsies avoid the trauma of invasive biopsies, which involve exploratory surgeryadds Mr. Packirisamy. We can get all cancer markers and prognoses just by testing any body fluid.

In this work, the researchers used breast cancer cells, but they would eventually like to create screening tests for other cancers.

Perhaps one day this product will be as easily accessible as other non-laboratory devices, such as home pregnancy tests., hopes Srinivas Bathini.

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