Biosensor shows promise for cancer diagnosis

May 16th, 2012 - 6:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 16 (IANS) Researchers have created an ultra-sensitive biosensor that could open up new opportunities for early detection of cancer and help doctors tailor personalised medicine specific to biochemistry of individual patients.

The device, which could be several hundred times more sensitive than other biosensors, combines the attributes of two distinctly different types of sensors, said Muhammad A. Alam, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Purdue University, US.

“Individually, both types of biosensors have limited sensitivity, but when you combine the two you get something that is better than either,” said Alam, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

The paper was co-authored by Purdue graduate student Ankit Jain, Alam and Pradeep R. Nair, former Purdue doctoral student, according to a Purdue statement.

The device - Flexure-FET biosensor - combines a mechanical sensor, which identifies a bio-molecule based on its mass or size, with an electrical sensor that identifies molecules based on their electrical charge.

The new sensor detects both charged and uncharged bio-molecules, allowing a broader range of applications than either type of sensor alone.

The sensor has two potential applications: personalised medicine, in which an inventory of proteins and DNA is recorded for individual patients to make more precise diagnostics and treatment decisions; and the early detection of cancer and other diseases.

The sensor makes possible the detection of small quantities of DNA fragments and proteins deformed by cancer long before the disease is visible through imaging or other methods, Alam said. A US patent application has been filed for the concept.

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