Next time you need to get tested for breast cancer, doctors may blast a few of your cells with nanoparticles and then run a small magnetic device over them. The device, pictured here, is called a HistoMag, and it can detect cancer cells with far greater accuracy than current techniques, as well as being much faster. Could this increase survival rates for breast cancer, while also eliminating the need for those awful, uncomfortable mammograms?
It's very possible. Quentin Pankhurst, a physics professor at the University College of London, says:
Until now, pathologists had to stain tissue samples with brown dyes to help them determine whether they were normal or cancerous. In terms of streamlining the process, the main problem is that all of the results are open to interpretation and each test has to be individually checked by a specialist . . . We've been working in the relatively new area of biomagnetics to develop a technique which provides more quantitative and reliable results, whilst also enabling pathologists to identify abnormal tissue sections much more quickly.
Cancerous cells have a protein on their surface called HER2. We use a solution of HER2 antibodies, tagged with magnetic nanoparticles, to stain the tissue sample. Using the HistoMag we can detect the quantity of tagged antibodies which attach themselves to the HER2 protein, which in turn provides us with an accurate picture of the spread of cancerous cells.
HistoMag, a Magnetometer for Cancer Cells