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News digest – ‘lab-on-a-chip’, immune system hacking, prostate cancer scans and sprinting cells

Lilly Matson
by Lilly Matson | Analysis

28 March 2020

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Lab computers

Scientists aim to detecting cancer spread using soundwaves 

When cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it can have a big impact on its environment, including causing the structure between cells (known as the extracellular matrix) to harden.  Scientists are taking advantage of this strange phenomenon, using sound waves to detect these changes with a ‘lab on a chip’ devicepotentially exposing a new way to monitor disease progression. New Atlas has the full story. 

New scan combo could detect advanced prostate cancer 

Scientists in Australia are testing a new scan combination to detect the spread of prostate cancer with greater accuracy than existing techniques, reports the Mail Online. Experts believe the new technique may one day help to spare some men from having unnecessary surgery and guide treatment decisions   

Scientists develop AI software that could help pick up signs of lung cancer in the blood 

Scientists are using machine learning to hunt for tiny fragments of lung cancer DNA in the blood, reports The Guardian. The software is still in the early stages of development and needs to be tested in large scale clinical trials, but researchers are hopeful that a blood test combined with the technology could one day help to flag who would benefit from further examination. We’ve blogged about detecting cancer early in the blood before.   

Pancreatic cancer cells use the same energy as sprinters’ muscles to spread 

Our scientists in Glasgow have discovered that pancreatic tumours use a cascade of chemicals when they begin to spread similar to the one generating the short bursts of energy required for sprinters to get off the starting blocks. Read our blog post to find out more.  

Crumpling up graphene could make better cancer sensors 

While testing for DNA errors linked to cancer in the blood isn’t a new phenomenon, many of the methods being developed require tens of thousands of DNA molecules. But researchers at the University of Illinois may have found a way to scale down operations thanks to crumpled up graphenea highly conductive layer of carbon which creates electrical “hot spots” that attract and hold DNA. A graphene biosensor can pick up signals from just a few DNA molecules, and scientists hope to one day  use the technology to create a handheld cancer detection device. New Atlas has the full story. 

And finally… 

Inspired by the way that cancer cells evade the immune system, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have successfully transplanted a black rat’s leg onto a white rat without the need for drugs that dampen the immune system. BBC Science Focus has more on this fascinating research.