Game of Exosomes


From the Analytical Scienctist by Luke Turner

A new lab-on-a-chip device aims to facilitate rapid, noninvasive early cancer detection from a single drop of blood or plasma

Early cancer detection is an elusive, but highly appealing goal – especially in cancers that often go undiagnosed until the advanced stages. One example is ovarian cancer, in which well over half of women are diagnosed at stage III or IV. Now, a new lab-on-a-chip device can detect cancer quickly and noninvasively in a droplet of blood or plasma by identifying tumor exosomes – extracellular vesicles that play an important role in cell-to-cell communication.

Although exosomes were historically thought of as cellular “trash bags,” recent discoveries have revealed their unanticipated significance. “In the past decade, we have realized that exosomes deliver molecular instructions in the form of nucleic acids and proteins that affect the function of other cells,” says lead author Yong Zeng (University of Kansas). When produced by tumor cells, exosomes stimulate tumor growth and induce metastasis, making them ideal targets for cancer detection. But their rarity during the early stages of cancer makes spotting them a challenge that requires an ultra-sensitive biosensor.

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