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A new pocket-sized device may allow doctors to check a woman's breast-cancer risk in minutes with just droplets of blood or a sliver of breast tissue, Canadian researchers reported.

They said the microchip device can measure levels of the hormone estrogen using far smaller samples than conventional methods, making it possible to quickly screen for breast cancer risk or check to see if breast cancer treatments are working. "The new device is compatible with extremely small samples--around 1,000 times smaller than the amount needed for conventional analyses," said Aaron Wheeler of the University of Toronto, whose study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine. "We could replace the invasive techniques of intravenous blood collection and even tissue biopsies with pinpricks of blood, or fine needle aspirates of tissue," Wheeler said. The experimental device advances the notion of a so-called "lab on a chip"--a device that shrinks down several lab functions onto a microchip. Wheeler said other such tools rely on microchannels--a series of interconnected, enclosed tubes--but these cannot process tissue because they can clog up.

"The method we're reporting here relies on digital microfluid moved across an open surface. Droplets essentially can be made to dance across the surface," Wheeler said. "There are no tubes to clog."
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Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 12, 2009
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