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Credit Card-Sized Device Could Help Diagnose Pancreatic Cancer in Minutes

Fluid transport technology processes whole-tissue biopsies (February 6)

Scientists and engineers at the University of Washington are developing a low-cost device that could help pathologists diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier and faster. The prototype can perform the basic steps for processing a biopsy, relying on fluid transport instead of human hands to process the tissue.

The team presented its initial results this month at a meeting of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) and has filed a patent for the first-generation device.

The new technology was designed to automate and streamline the manual, time-consuming process a pathology lab goes through to diagnose cancer. Currently, a pathologist takes a biopsy tissue sample and then sends it to the lab, where it is cut into thin slices, stained, put on slides, and analyzed optically in 2-D for abnormalities.

The new instrumentation would process and analyze whole-tissue biopsies for 3-D imaging, which offers a more complete picture of the cellular makeup of a tumor, said postdoctoral researcher Ronnie Das.

The research team is building a thick, credit card-sized, flexible device out of silicon that allows a piece of tissue to pass through tiny channels and undergo a series of steps that replicate what happens on a much larger scale in a pathology lab.

The researchers say this is the first time material larger than a single-celled organism has successfully moved in a microfluidic device. They speculate that this advancement could have implications across the sciences in automating analyses that usually are done by humans.

Source: University of Washington; February 6, 2014.

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