Lab-on-a-chip device to use liquid biopsy to detect cancer quickly

26 February 2019 (Last Updated February 26th, 2019 11:10)

Researchers at the University of Kansas in the US have developed a new lab-on-a-chip diagnostic device that will leverage liquid biopsy principle to quickly detect cancer using a droplet of blood or plasma.

Lab-on-a-chip device to use liquid biopsy to detect cancer quickly
The new lab-on-a-chip’s key innovation is a 3D nanoengineering method that mixes and senses biological elements. Credit: University of Kansas.

Researchers at the University of Kansas in the US have developed a new lab-on-a-chip diagnostic device that will leverage liquid biopsy principle to quickly detect cancer using a droplet of blood or plasma.

The faster identification of the disease is expected to allow timelier interventions and better outcomes.

The new device is designed to identify exosomes, which are tiny parcels of biological details generated by tumour cells to trigger cancer growth or metastasize.

“The researchers believe that the chip’s application could be expanded to a variety of other diseases. They noted that the device is comparatively cheaper and easier to produce.”

It utilises a 3D nanoengineering approach that identifies exosomes coming into contact with the chip’s sensing surface.

University of Kansas chemistry associate professor Yong Zeng said: “Basically, tumours send out exosomes packaging active molecules that mirror the biological features of the parental cells. While all cells produce exosomes, tumour cells are really active compared to normal cells.”

When tested with clinical samples from ovarian cancer patients, the lab-on-a-chip device demonstrated the ability to detect the presence of cancer in a little amount of plasma.

The researchers believe that the chip’s application could be expanded to a variety of other diseases. They noted that the device is comparatively cheaper and easier to produce.

Currently, the team is working with cell-culture models, animal models and clinical patient samples to advance the device from the lab setting to clinical applications.

Zeng added: “Almost all mammalian cells release exosomes, so the application is not just limited to ovarian cancer or any one type of cancer. We’re working with people to look at neurodegenerative diseases, breast and colorectal cancers, for example.”

The research, which has been published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, was supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants and the the KU Cancer Center’s Biospecimen Repository Core Facility.