Diagnosis of cancer using ‘cell dust’

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DETECTING “cell dust” could lead to quick and simple new methods of cancer diagnosis and monitoring, say scientists.

Researchers tried out the technique using a hand-held device to spot signs of brain cancer in both mouse and human blood samples.

The test detects and profiles tiny membrane bubbles called “microvesicles” that are shed by all cells, but especially those forming tumours.

Microvesicles measure less than one micrometre, or one-thousandth of a millimetre, across. They are believed to play a role in cellular communication and the transport of proteins.

Because of their small size, they are extremely difficult to detect. To overcome this problem, the scientists attached minute magnetic labels to the particles which allowed them to be identified and analysed using a special probe.

The research is reported in the journal Nature Medicine.