If cancer is detected and diagnosed before symptoms appear, treatment can be more effective and potentially improved. To that end, IBM scientists have created a new chip technology that enables the separation of biological particles on a much smaller scale than previous technologies.

The research, published in Nature Nanotechnology, says the technique is able to separate biological particles at the nanoscale, a measure that is likely to be 50 times smaller than the particle size that previous techniques can detect. This allows doctors to analyze particles such as DNA, viruses, exosomes, etc., and be able to spot signs of disease before physical symptoms appear.

According to IBM, the device uses nanoscale deterministic lateral displacement, also known as nano-DLD, to keep a sample of liquid flowing over a silicon chip. The chip has an array of asymmetric columns that separate the swarming nanoparticles based on their size. The chip is 2 cm in length and width.


This 2-centimeter IBM chip can “kill” cancer in its cradle

Exosomes are often hidden in easily collected body fluids, such as saliva and urine, and contain biomarkers that are increasingly useful in the detection of malignancies. IBM technology has created this chip in response to the challenges faced by current technology in the application of minimally invasive liquid biopsy. According to information released by IBM, the lab-on-a-chip can separate particles as small as 20 nanometers and distinguish small exosomes from large exosomes. By analyzing the size of the exosomes and the proteins on their surfaces, doctors can know the status of the cancer and spot other possible diseases.

IBM is currently working with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Monet to focus on the development of prostate cancer detection technology. The team will test the device’s ability to detect exosomes with specific biomarkers for prostate cancer cells via liquid biopsy.


In addition to early detection of cancer cells and other diseases such as the flu and Zika virus, the Monet team hopes that the technology will lead to further understanding of disease biology, as they believe the technology can “‘eavesdrop’ on the intercellular spaces carried by exosomes. information exchanged”, thereby increasing the understanding of disease generation.

Carlos Cordon-Cardo, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Mount Sinai Pathology Health System Department, said, “We hope that by combining the Mount Mornet team’s expertise in cancer and pathology with IBM’s The experience of systems biology and its latest nano-scale separation technology finds specific and easily detectable biomarkers from exosomes to create a new cutting-edge technology to further determine whether an individual has cancer and how to better treat it. “

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