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  • Handheld units detect cancer on the go

Nov 2011
Ashley N. Paddock,

EAST LANSING, Mich. – An inexpensive handheld cancer diagnostic device may soon help physicians in developing nations with limited resources to detect and diagnose the disease and to provide treatment before it’s too late.

Cancer is emerging as a leading cause of death in underdeveloped and developing countries, and screening for it is almost nonexistent because current diagnostics and rapid screening methods are not suitable for low-income and resource-limited countries.

Syed Hashsham, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University, concentrated his efforts on developing a low-cost, mobile device. The instrument, called the Gene-Z, operates using an iPod Touch or Android-based tablet and analyzes microRNAs and other genetic markers. MicroRNAs are single-stranded molecules that regulate genes; changes in certain microRNAs have been linked to cancer and other diseases.

The handheld Gene-Z, which is operated using an Android-based tablet or iPod Touch, performs genetic analysis on microRNAs and other genetic markers to detect and diagnose cancer.

The Gene-Z is battery-operated and solar-chargeable, making it a suitable fit for areas where there are limited resources and mobility is important. The device can screen for established markers of cancer at extremely low cost in the field, Hashsham said.

Until recently, little effort had been placed on cancer detection for developing countries. Early detection could lead to more affordable management of cancers with the aid of new screening and diagnostic technologies that could overcome global health care disparities, said Reza Nassiri, director of MSU’s Institute of International Health.

Hashsham, who showcased the test with colleagues at the National Institutes of Health’s first Cancer Detection and Diagnostics Conference in August, is working with Nassiri on the device’s medical capabilities and is establishing connections with physicians worldwide.

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