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Friday, 30 December 2005 13:53
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Tiny sensor to detect cancer
A tiny biosensor, created by scientists led by the University of Newcastle, will be able to detect cancer proteins and potentially the bug responsible for MRSA.

The technology will be incorporated into a hand-held device for quick analysis of tissue samples.

It is hoped the sensor will allow doctors to diagnose and monitor common types of cancer, and to work out the most appropriate therapy.

The vibrating disc is no bigger than a speck of dust and works by identifying cancer markers such as proteins or other molecules produced by cancer cells which vary according to the type of cancer and are distinct from proteins produced by healthy cells.

The disc is coated with special patterns of DNA which cause the cancer markers to bind to the surface. This binding makes the disc vibrate at a different frequency, which is then measured, allowing detection of the marker.

Lead researcher Professor Calum McNeil, said: "We are confident that this new technology has the potential to improve the prospects of successful treatment for these cancers.

"Early diagnosis and effective monitoring of cancers are known to be key factors influencing outcome.

"In addition, the technology could provide specialists with advice about the most appropriate therapy for a particular patient, since the devices could easily be connected to sources of information such as a hospital computer network, the internet or a mobile phone."

The device could also be developed to detect a range of other diseases and bacteria, opening up the possibility of screening patients for MRSA and other infections that can be carried into wards.

Dr Kat Arney, cancer information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "Thanks to research we know more and more about the molecules that are faulty in cancer cells.

"Once the gyroscope technology is fully developed, these miniature machines could prove useful for spotting cancers at an early stage.

"It's important to work on new ways to diagnose cancer, as early detection is more likely to lead to successful treatment."


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