A device that monitors the development of tumors

A team of researchers from Stanford University has tested on mice, with excellent results, a device capable of monitoring the size of a tumor: light, small and wireless, FAST (acronym for Flexible Autonomous Sensor measuring Tumorsthat is “flexible and autonomous sensor for the measurement of tumors) promises to revolutionize cancer therapy by testing the effectiveness of drugs in reducing the size of cancer. The research results were published on Science Advances.

How does it work. The FAST device is composed of a sensor – a flexible and elastic polymer with a gold circuit layer inside – connected to a small electronic backpack that is placed on the back of the guinea pigs. The device measures the deformation of the tumor membrane (how much the tissue stretches and contracts) and sends the collected data to a smartphone app connected via wireless. FAST is very sensitive and can measure variations in magnitude of the order of just one hundredth of a millimeter (10 micrometers).

FAST device

The FAST device (pictured) is reusable – it costs around $ 60 to produce.
© Alex Abramson

Strength points. This device, currently only tested on mice in the laboratory, has three main advantages over the classic methods of tumor control: first of all, FAST collects measurements every five minutes and therefore allows continuous monitoring; secondly, the sensor is able to accurately calculate changes in tumor size, unlike other methods that are not as accurate, such as bioluminescence imaging or caliper; finally, the device is autonomous and non-invasive, as it is applied to the skin like a patch, and is battery powered.

One of the challenges FAST’s design had to overcome was that the sensor could compromise the measurement by applying pressure to the tumor and, in fact, crushing it. To prevent this from happening, the researchers made the material that makes up the sensor patch as flexible and elastic as possible, just like the skin: “The design is surprisingly simple,” explains Alex Abramson, coordinator of the study, underlining that, while in its simplicity, the device could be of great help to the oncology and pharmaceutical communities by speeding up, automating and lowering the cost of cancer screening procedures.

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About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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