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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.

  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • edogawa
    Grandmastersexsay, keep any political garbage out of here or any future articles as this isn't the place for it, thanks!
    Reply
  • irish_adam
    Grandmastersexsay are you saying that the US is the sole contributor to medical research worldwide? Because i find that insulting and only highlights your ignorance.

    Also its not like IBM is funded by you medical insurance you know, at the end of the day if the product works and its not a complete rip off then it will sell. The same goes for any advances in the future.
    Reply
  • xroe
    Meanwhile apple released a slightly larger ipad mini; how is IBM not the most valuable tech company again? Honestly though its work like this that keeps IBM in my top list of companies that might save to world one day.
    Reply
  • SessouXFX
    Regardless of what you think of Grandmastersexsay, the foundation of his argument lies true. Health care in the US is going up, doctors are leaving, and advancements like this lose a large part of research without consistent US involvement, regardless of worldwide contributions....
    Reply
  • irish_adam
    12067205 said:
    Regardless of what you think of Grandmastersexsay, the foundation of his argument lies true. Health care in the US is going up, doctors are leaving, and advancements like this lose a large part of research without consistent US involvement, regardless of worldwide contributions....

    Research is not funded by your insurance, it does not matter how your health care is funded. At the end of the day the research is paid for by how much they can sell the equipment that they make. I dont see how you changing your healthcare system affects that in any way. The world does not revolve around the US no matter how much some of you seem to think it does. You are just one country and the only thing that you spend on more than any other is your military. When it comes to healthcare and research other countries spend far more per capita that you
    Reply
  • Tanquen
    Has nothing to do with people having single payer but people having and paying for health care. If everyone is paying for it and using it there should be just as much and maybe more demand than when only some have it and everyone still uses it. Everyone must have car insurance so that must be un-American and all the insurance companies got out of automotive insurance, right? You need to look at why it costs so much. Companies don’t what to fix you they want you to keep buying pills and other management purchases. Look at antibiotics, used too much and without proper supervision so the drug companies make more money and now that has created antibiotic resistant bugs and then all of the drug companies have gotten out of the antibiotic market because it’s one and done and they could not figure out a way to keep you taking them. Most of the big money is spent on theft, people that don’t want to take care of themselves, (eat right and exercise) and in the last year or so of life. We could spend a third of what we do if people would just do the preventative stuff we know works.
    Reply
  • twztechman
    Grandmastersexsay has a good point. Whether folks like it or not, the incentive to make a profit are the driving force in many of our recent scientific advancements. With the government taking control a sector of the economy we will lose the incentive and creativity in this area of the economy. That's why we are seeing so many advancements worldwide in technology these days - free markets reward creativity and risk.
    Reply
  • Tanquen
    12070034 said:
    Grandmastersexsay has a good point. Whether folks like it or not, the incentive to make a profit are the driving force in many of our recent scientific advancements. With the government taking control a sector of the economy we will lose the incentive and creativity in this area of the economy. That's why we are seeing so many advancements worldwide in technology these days - free markets reward creativity and risk.

    If you ignore lots of what is going on in health care, sure. There must be a balance. We need advancement but we don’t need 15 different boner pills. Companies lie, cheat and steal, it’s a fact. They get laws changed so there is less regulation and then you end up with 100s of people being injected with fungus that kills them or their on meds for the rest of the life because companies just can’t help themselves. It’s like my mom’s cancer treatments. $$$TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS$$$ a pop and guess what? The company that sells it is just so ok with that. What the patent on the last drug that worked better is up? Let push that new crappy one so we can get a new patent. What, work on a cure? That is madness, how can we make money on that? That is the garbage you’re getting for spending more than any other nation, a lower quality of life and a shorter lifespan. All along we pay more and more.

    But your right, lets deregulate and get rid of schools, police and firefighter and taxes. If people want to know who killed who, they can pay and if they want them to go to jail they can pay and if they…
    Reply