Exosomes were once dismissed and referred to as “cell dust,” but researchers believe these biomarkers may potentially help detect early-stage lung cancers.
Exosomes are minute membrane vesicles released from most cell types, including cancer cells, that play a significant role in delivering nucleic acids and proteins to nearby or distant cells. Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center first developed a new miniaturized biomedical testing device, dubbed a “lab-on-a-chip.” that uses microfluidics' technology for precise manipulation of minuscule fluid volumes (as low as one trillionth of a liter or less). Exosomes are usually difficult to separate from the blood and require multiple-step ultracentrifugation, but the “lab-on-a-chip” can extract the exosomes from the plasma quickly, more inexpensively, and with greater sensitivity. Although the technique could be used for a range of cancers, the researchers focused on lung cancer detection because it is often diagnosed after symptom onset. There is also no widely accepted minimally invasive screening tool for early detection of this form of cancer, but if future research on the “lab-on-a-chip” is successful, this blood-based test could become the new standard.
A breakthrough paper has been published describing researchers’ invention of a miniaturized biomedical testing device for exosomes.