IBM Microfluids Could Be New Tool in Fight Against Cancer

Cancer ranks right up there with "hunger" as one of humanity's oldest enemies. And, on top of building out 3D chips powered by electronic blood and other bits of science-fiction craziness, IBM researchers have developed new diagnostic tests to help spot cancer in biopsies.

Typically, a biopsy involves cutting out a test piece of tissue from a person and running tests to check for the presence of cancerous cells or proto-oncogenes, which can be an early warning sign of high cancer risk. These tests use different chemicals which are absorbed by the cells along different metabolic pathways, allowing them to distinguish healthy cells, which process glucose and nutrients properly, and cancerous cells, which operate a little differently.

As you might suspect though, biopsies taken from organs like the brain or heart are dangerous, and scientists are severely limited in the quantity of cells they can gather before they risk severe damage to the patient. IBM's new technology uses microfluidics which reduces the surface area required to an area just a smidge larger than the width of a human hair.

With the more efficient use of space, not only will less tissue need to be collected from patients, but the accuracy of those tests is also expected to improve as more runs can be performed on the same surface area – reducing the chance of mistakes.

CNET has the full story, as well as some really spectacular pictures of the device in action, but it's just one more example of new ways technology can, hopefully, be used to improve lives and help people get treatment for one of the deadliest diseases.

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  • fnh
    At first I was confused by whether the microfluidics technology was supposed to help in gathering biopsies from patients, but instead, in reality, the microfluidics was helping out in pathology through improvement in analysing biopsy samples.
  • Grandmastersexsay
    It is a shame this will be part of the last medical advancements we will see in our lifetime. With Obama care destined to drive legislation that will turn the U.S. into a single payer system, there won't be any money to be made in the medical industry world wide. At least not enough to incentivise expensive projects like this. The U.S. is where the vast majority of advancement is being made, and the advancements made by European companies are targeting the U.S. market.

    If you really don't think this is the direction the U.S. is going, just look at the doctors and hospitals that are going to participate in Obama care. Now imagine what doctors and hospitals will do when their only choice is to work with the government or not work in medicine at all. Medical schools will start dropping left and right from lack of enrolement. It is all very depressing to know of all the human inginuity that will be stifled by this government power grab.
  • edogawa
    Grandmastersexsay, keep any political garbage out of here or any future articles as this isn't the place for it, thanks!