A Germany-based startup has created a device that can check for a variety of cancers by reading just one blood sample.
It’s called Miriam, and it conducts tests by checking for the presence of microRNA, a type of molecule that indicates whether someone has cancer and, if they do, what type.
The $500 device was exhibited in public for the first time on Thursday at the TEDGlobal conference in Rio De Janeiro, Wired reports.
TED curator Chris Anderson called it “one of the most thrilling demos in TED history.”
The blood sample is prepared with an RNA extraction kit, available at pharmacies everywhere.
The sample is then dropped into a plate composed of 96 tiny wells, each of which contain a chemical concoction that can spot the different types of microRNA associated with dozens of cancers.
The plate is inserted into the device once all the wells are full. If they detect microRNA, the wells begin to glow.
This process takes about an hour, and the results are sent to a cloud server.
The server determines which molecules are present based on the strength of the glow, and these results are compared to a database showing which molecular structures indicate which cancers.
The device has so far successfully detected liver cancer in mice, but the international team known as Miroculus still has a lot of kinks to work out.
Accuracy has become an issue because microRNA has proven to appear in the blood from much less significant changes due to conventional medication or a common infection.
Mirocolus must know what factors can affect Miriam’s results before seeking FDA approval, as a key quality of Miriam is its ability to be easily used and understood by someone with little if any medical training.
Miriam is currently being used by pharmaceutical companies to see how the blood of patients reacts to experimental drugs.
It will be a few years of data collection, the team says, until the device can be sold to doctors and clinics for diagnostic purposes.