In a breakthrough, an Indian- American scientist at the prestigious MIT has developed a simple, cheap, paper test that could improve cancer diagnosis rates and help people get treated earlier.The diagnostic, which works much like a pregnancy test, could reveal within minutes, based on a urine sample, whether a person has cancer, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced. This approach has helped detect infectious diseases, and the new technology allows non-communicable diseases to be detected using the same strategy, it said.
The technology, developed by MIT professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator 46-year-old Sangeeta Bhatia, relies on nanoparticles that interact with tumour proteins called proteases, each of which can trigger release of hundreds of biomarkers that are then easily detectable in a patient's urine. "When we invented this new class of synthetic biomarker, we used a highly specialised instrument to do the analysis," says Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
"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,"Bhatia said in a statement.
Bhatia, a member of MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, is the senior author of a paper describing the particles in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published this week.
Sangeeta N. Bhatia, M.D., Ph.D. (b. 1968) is an Indian American biological engineer and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. Bhatia's research investigates applications of micro- and nano-technology for tissue repair and regeneration. In 2003, she was named to the MIT Technology Review TR100 as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35. She was also named a "Scientist to Watch" by The Scientist in 2006, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in 2008.
Bhatia co-authored the first undergraduate textbook on tissue engineering and was an editor for two books, Microdevices in Biology and Medicine and Biosensing.