Early detection is often critical to surviving cancer, making methods of diagnosis a major focus for innovation. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDCA), a type of pancreatic cancer, is often detected too late, so researchers have developed a new diagnostic tool for this disease. Known as a nanoplasmic sensor assay, the test is designed to spot small markers of cancer in blood plasma. In this case, it identifies tumour-derived extracellular vesicles (tEVs), minute cytoplasmic sacs produced by cells, containing proteins and other molecules characteristic of tumours. The test involves shining a beam of light on a tiny chip, with an array of nanoscale holes, or nanopores (pictured), coated in antibodies specific to PDCA tEVs. Binding of tEVs (shown as multicoloured spheres) to these antibodies causes a shift in the light re-emitted from the chip, enabling detection. Highly sensitive and accurate, this assay should greatly improve our ability to diagnose pancreatic cancer.
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