Early detection of cancer using implantable nanotubes

Detection of cancer in the early stage is necessary but is more like a challenge for the oncologists. Most of the times, the cancers are diagnosed after attaining the life-threatening point. However, after reaching a specific age group, people are recommended to undergo check-ups such as mammograms and endoscopies but still, the field is deprived of feasible techniques to frequently diagnose cancer without major risk to the health of a patient and also cost to the healthcare system.

With the hope of tackling this issue, the researchers from the Memorial Sloan Kettering have designed small implantable sensors. These sensors consist of needle-like carbon nanotubes which can be placed in the tissues with ease. The sensors are so minute that several of them can accommodate on the top of a pin.

The sensors function by emitting and absorbing harmless infrared light that offers data on the disease biomarker that basically specifies the biological activity, for instance, is the tumor growing or not. The light can be voluntarily sensed and analyzed even if it passes through numerous centimeters of tissue. Thus, the nanotube sensors can be placed beneath the skin and a tiny device worn on the wrist can pass light into the sensors and evaluate the light that comes out, simply functioning as a disease fitness tracker. This can provide the oncologists with useful data about the disease in that particular part of the body.

These sensors keep track on the small RNA molecules, miRNAs, which acts as biomarkers for specific cancers and also other diseases. The nanotube sensors thus have a potential of detecting cancer in individuals with high risk or in successfully treated patients but have a strong probability of recurrence. The sensor can help detect the levels of biomarker going down or up in patients undergoing treatment, which can assist the doctor to change the drugs.

The team also illustrated the reliability of this technique by evaluating clinically significant miRNA biomarkers in urine and serum samples. The nanosensor was also fixed into a semi-permeable membrane that was rooted into a live mouse, indicating its functionality and also that the signal was measurable through tissue. They team also demonstrated that by modifying the chemistry of the nanotubes, they could detect two target biomarkers at diverse wavelengths.

Surely this technology will offer new avenues in the field of cancer diagnosis, isn’t it?