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News U.S.-Indian Develops Cheap Paper Test To Detect Cancer   Email this page
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BANGALORE: Sometimes you donít require the best of technologies to find out some types of diseases and that is what the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Sangeeta Bhatia has done, reports Chidanand Rajghatta of Times of India.
The U.S. born Bhatia explained that the paper test effectively relies on nanoparticles that interact with tumor proteins called proteases; and added that each of these particles can trigger and release hundreds of biomarkers that are easily detectable in a patient's urine.

"When we invented this new class of synthetic biomarker, we used a highly specialized instrument to do the analysis," exclaimed Bhatia, who is also the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

She further added that, "For the developing world, we thought it would be exciting to adapt it instead to a paper test that could be performed on unprocessed samples in a rural setting, without the need for any specialized equipment. The simple readout could even be transmitted to a remote caregiver by a picture on a mobile phone."The main reason for Sangeetha to work so closely with this is due to the sharp rise in cancer rates in developing nations, which accounts to 70 percent of cancer mortality worldwide. Early detection has also been proven to improve outcomes, but screening approaches such as mammograms and colonoscopy that are used in the developed world are too costly to afford.

In the original version of this technology, these peptides were detected using an instrument called a mass spectrometer, which analyzes the molecular makeup of a sample.

However, these instruments are very tough to find and not readily available in the developing countries. So the researchers adapted the particles that could be analyzed on paper, by using an approach known as a lateral flow assay-- the same procedure used in pregnancy tests.

Bhatia says that, "This is a new idea to create an excreted biomarker instead of relying on what the body gives you." She further adds that, "To prove this approach is really going to be a useful diagnostic, the next step is to test it in patient populations."

Bhatia and her team's research had other Indians who backed her idea. The team won a grant from MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, which was funded by Indian-American tech entrepreneur Desh Deshpande. It was also backed by Indian bio-tech entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.

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