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.