According to the researcher, the advantage of the approach is that the molecules deposited on microchannel walls are smaller and cheaper than antibodies, and the photonic integrated circuits have a fairly straightforward design. This will enable their mass production down the road. The new technique for breast cancer screening could make the procedure more affordable and widely available.
Kuzin explained that the microtubes in the device are washable and the active layer of the sensor can be redeposited for repeated use.
Study co-author Vasiliy Chernyshev — a senior research scientist at Skoltech and the head of the Biophotonics Laboratory at Kulakov National Medical Research Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Perinatology — added that biomarkers similar to vesicles could serve to diagnose other diseases, too.
This makes the new technique scalable. In the future, the device could be used in screening tests for multiple pathologies. Also, as the technology is enhanced the capacity to analyze other bodily fluids, such as urine, could be added.
The findings of the study are reported in a high-impact Nature-indexed journal. The scientists are preparing to file for a patent on their invention.
“Breast cancer diagnostics is an actively developing area of Russian health care. The main advantages of the newly proposed method are the rapid test results, the small amount of biological fluid required, and the capacity for repeated use,” said Senior Research Scientist Irina Shipunova of the National Medical Research Center of Hematology under the Ministry of Health of Russia.
She finds that the test’s simplicity makes it fit for use during routine medical checkups. With more cases identified at an early stage and an adequate response, the ultimate number of favorable outcomes will increase.
That said, it is possible that even if the microchip itself proves fairly inexpensive, the analyzing device that will carry it could end up being expensive and could require highly qualified operators.
“Using biophotonics to detect oncomarkers, and tumor-specific microvesicles in particular, is a promising approach. Such solutions could make tests faster,” said Albert Rizvanov, the head of the Personalized Medicine Center of Excellence at Kazan Federal University.
However, the expert pointed out, vesicles are not always exclusively associated with cancer. All cells constantly produce them in amounts that vary with the state of the organism, for example, depending on whether the person is feeling well and what they’ve been eating. So particular care is required in applying the method, so as not to get a false positive or a false negative result.
Rizvanov added that health care is a conservative industry where it is often not the best but rather the most infrastructurally convenient solutions that win. They rely on existing hardware and require no personnel retraining. This factor has to be considered in developing new medical techniques and equipment.
This story originally came out on iz.ru (Izvestia), in Russian. The study reported in the story was published in Applied Physics Letters and supported by Russian Science Foundation grant Nos. 23-13-00035 and 23-79-00056, as well as Grant No. FSME-2022-0008 of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Russia.