A biosensor that can detect cells and proteins in trace samples and in only minutes has been developed by a Drexel University engineering professor. The sensor, which contains a millimeter-size cantilever, could have wide applications in medical diagnostic testing (eg, prostate cancer, detecting contamination in food products (eg, E coli bacteria) and monitoring for biothreat agents (eg, anthrax). In medical testing, the sensor can be used to analyse the four most widely tested fluids: blood, urine, sputum and spinal fluid.
Existing conventional tests require 24 hours and a trip to a laboratory to boost the concentration of microbes in a sample to produce findings. The handheld sensor, developed by Dr Raj Mutharasan over the past six years, can yield findings in about 10 minutes. No direct test for minute amounts of proteins exists on the market.
Results of a preliminary study using the device to detect noninvasively a prostate cancer biomarker in 15 minutes were recently presented at the 96th annual meeting of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology.