While cancer deaths are declining as new therapies and drugs become available, it is still axiomatic that the earlier cancer is detected, the more treatable it is. This fact presents a problem in the developing world, where access to health care can be spotty at best. Indeed, according to Gizmag, 70 percent of cancer deaths occur in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, places that have a lack of labs that can process tests that can detect cancers.
A group of scientists from Loughborough University in Great Britain have developed a solution to this problem in the form of a lab in a briefcase. The portable lab has the capability to detect biomarkers for cancer from blood samples in 15 minutes and to conduct 80 tests simultaneously. The medical device industry has been handed the cancer equivalent of a home pregnancy test.
The lab in a briefcase is capable of conducting the cancer tests using whole blood, without having to prepare samples. The test strips have microscopic tubes the size of human hairs and are imaged using a USB-powered film scanner. A portable computer does the analysis. Also included are plates with assay reagents and a multi-syringe device that does multiple tests at the same time.
Using the lab in a briefcase, a doctor or other healthcare worker could test people for cancer in even the most primitive conditions. Even more important, the Loughborough University researchers have good hopes that the concept can be expanded to test for and detect a whole variety of infectious diseases in the future.
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