Scientists have developed a nanosensor for the quick detection of cancers through a simple blood test.
A technique developed at Yale University in the United States allows scientists to "detect tiny amounts of cancer biomarkers in a small volume of whole blood in just 20 minutes," according to the report in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
The researchers add that the findings could "dramatically simplify the way physicians test for biomarkers of cancer and other diseases."
The device acts as a filter catching cancer biomarkers, in this case for prostate and breast cancers, on a chip while washing away the rest of the blood.
This allows for detection of extremely small concentrations on the order of picograms (a trillionth of a gram) per millilitre of blood, they say.
"This is the equivalent of being able to detect the concentration of a single grain of salt dissolved in a large swimming pool."
Current cancer tests take several days, but the new device is able to read out biomarker concentrations in a just a few minutes.
"Doctors could have these small, portable devices in their offices and get nearly instant readings," says Tarek Fahmy, one of the leaders of the research team. "They could also carry them into the field and test patients on site."