Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Stanford scientists build a microscope to spot the seeds of cancer

There’s a rule of thumb with cancer: “the earlier you can detect the disease, the more effective the treatment, and hence better potential outcomes.”

Which is why, as an alternative to having to draw a patient’s blood and analyzing it using special antibodies to detect the presence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs), a team of engineers, scientists and doctors have worked together to develop a mini-microscope that would be able to noninvasively detect the CTCs earlier than ever.

The idea is that a doctor would inject a patient with a dye that will cause CTCs to fluoresce, and then use the pen-size microscope to focus a low-power laser light on a blood vessel, just a few hair-widths below the patient’s skin. Then, using in vivo flow cytometry, the microscope would register the light emitted by the excited CTCs and log each observation.

So far the researcher have focused on developing the method in mice, but they hope to soon move the microscope to a clinical setting to conduct a proof-of-principle test of the technique in humans.

Press release: