Trial under way for oral cancer test

Aug. 13, 2010 at 1:59 AM
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SHEFFIELD, England, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- A British team of researchers say they has been awarded a $2 million grant to perfect a test dentists can use to detect oral cancer through mouth cells.

An international team led by Martin Thornhill of the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals has begun clinical trials on patients at Charles Clifford Dental Hospital for two years to perfect the technology. If the new technology is as effective as the current system that uses a biopsy it could be regularly used in dental offices in the future.

The current procedure involves a dentist detecting a suspicious lesion and using a scalpel to perform a biopsy using an off-site laboratory.

The new test involves removing cells with a brush, placing them on a chip, and inserting the chip into the analyzer, leading to a result in 8-10 minutes. The new test is quicker and less expensive, Thornhill says.

Professor John McDevitt of Rice University developed the novel micro-chip that uses microchip design, nanotechnology, microfluids, image analysis, pattern recognition and biotechnology to shrink many of the main functions of a state-of-the-art clinical pathology laboratory onto a nano-bio-chip.

The nano-bio-chips are disposable and formed like a credit card into a battery-powered analyzer.

The sample of mouth cells is placed on the card and microfluidic circuits wash cells from the sample into the reaction chamber. The cells pass through channels about the size of small veins and come in contact with "biomarkers" that react only with specific types of diseased cells.

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