Stanford University scientists have developed a system based on MagArray’s biodetection chips that are capable of detecting cancer-associated proteins in a blood serum sample in less than an hour. MagArray is a startup company in the Panorama Institute for Molecular Medicine, a not-for-profit incubator in Sunnyvale, California. The device was created using magnetic nanotechnology and can detect cancer proteins with a far greater sensitivity than that of existing commercial devices. As a result of this enhanced sensitivity, cancer can be detected at a very early stage, while there are relatively few proteins released into the bloodstream.
The detector contains a silicon chip designed by Sebastian Osterfeld, a Stanford doctoral student in materials science and engineering. The chip contains 64 embedded sensors that monitor magnetic field changes. Attached to these sensors are “capture antibodies” which trap specific cancer-related proteins as they pass through the sensor with the blood. At this point a second portion of antibodies is added to the sample. They attach themselves to both magnetic antibodies and the cancer biomarkers that are already held by the sensor. As a result, the MagArray sensors detect the magnetic nanoparticles together with the cancer markers. The researchers estimate they can detect cancer protein levels 400 times lower than the level required for detection by an existing cancer protein detection technology, known as ELISA.