IBM launches lab-on-a-chip technology to spot cancer before symptoms appear

IBM scientists revealed new technology that can help physicians detect diseases such as cancer before symptoms appear. The company also said it is working with Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine to test the lab-on-a-chip on prostate cancer

“The ability to sort and enrich biomarkers at the nanoscale in chip-based technologies opens the door to understanding diseases such as cancer as well as viruses like the flu or Zika,” Gustavo Stolovitzky, program director of Translational Systems Biology and Nanobiotechnology at IBM Research, said in a statement. “This extra amount of time could allow physicians to make more informed decisions and when the prognosis for treatment options is most positive.”

IBM said that separating bioparticles down to 20 nanometers in diameter gives access to important particles such as DNA, viruses and exosomes. Once separated, physicians can analyze the particles to look for signs of disease even before patients experience any physical symptoms and treat the patient earlier, when doing so would likely be more effective.

Until now, the smallest bioparticle that could be separated by size with on-chip technologies was about 50 times or larger.

Exosomes – released in accessible bodily fluids such as blood, saliva or urine – are increasingly being viewed as useful biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of malignant tumors and becoming a critical tool to reveal the origin and nature of a cancer, IBM executives noted.

With Mount Sinai, IBM plans to confirm its lab-on-a-chip technology is able to pick up exosomes with cancer-specific biomarkers from patient liquid biopsies.

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