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Blood tested with new technology

A revolutionary microchip detector could be the latest tool to improve blood tests for cancer and other diseases, improving efficiency.

The device could take only minutes to carry out the tests, after scientists successfully ran the new technology for the first time to detect biomakers for prostate and breast cancer.

Specific proteins in the blood are caught by the device, which uses arrays of tiny "nanosensors". Numerous conditions, ranging from cancers to heart disease, could be looked for simultaneously with this new process.

"Doctors could have these small, portable devices in their offices and get nearly instant readings," said Dr Tarek Fahmy, a member of the US development team at Yale University.

"They could also carry them into the field and test patients on site."

At present blood tests involve taking a sample, sending it to a laboratory, and subjecting it to chemical analysis. Often patients have to wait several days to get their results.

The device is also much more precise than existing technologies. Blood is washed over the chip, which filters out and detects the antigens with a sensitivity equivalent to finding a single grain of salt dissolved in a large swimming pool.

In the tests, the scientists used a chip designed to detect the prostate cancer biomarker PSA and the antigen CA15.3, which indicates breast cancer.

Copyright Press Association 2009