‘Star Trek’ gadget to detect cancer

By | December 15, 2009

Star Trek gadget to detect cancer

A STAR Trek-style gadget that can detect cancers and other diseases without the need for surgery is being developed by scientists.

The team at Yale University claim the portable biomarker detector will be able to identify signs of illness from a sample of blood within 20 minutes.

The device, similar to Dr McCoy’s tricorder in the science fiction series, could revolutionise patient diagnosis which at present is both expensive and time consuming.

The device, expected to be about the size of a paperback book, works by detecting biomarkers in the blood, substances that suggest that a patient is diseased.

The sensor, which uses nanotechnology, is so accurate that it could pick up a grain of salt in a swimming pool, claim the researchers.

“Doctors could have these small, portable devices in their offices and get nearly instant readings,” said Dr Tarek Fahmy a biomedical engineer at Yale University.

“They could also carry them into the field and test patients on site.”

Current tests for cancer and heart disease are subjective, expensive and labour intensive. – TG

They involve taking a blood sample, sending it to a laboratory, using a centrifuge to separate the different components, isolating the plasma and putting it through an hours-long chemical analysis.

The whole process takes several days. In comparison, the new device is able to read out biomarker concentrations in just 20 minutes.

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