BENGALURU: Innovators often draw inspiration from personal experiences. Dr Deepika Sharma was spurred by a tragedy to come up with a device that brings down the costs of cancer detection.
Described as a ‘microfluidic low-cost organ-on-chip for cancer metastasis and drug optimisation’, the device can detect cancer early and help choose the right drugs.
Sharma’s mother died of urethral cancer five years ago. The death prodded the scientist to work on a device that could detect cancer early.
“If there had been a tool for early detection, we could have saved my mother,” she said.
The chip she is developing costs as little as Rs 30 and could cost even less if mass-produced. The project has been taken up by the Institute of Nano Science and Technology, Mohali, Punjab, to which she is attached.
Speaking to Express on the sidelines of the eighth Bangalore India Nano Summit, organised by the Department of IT, BT and Science and Technology, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research and other organisations, Sharma said work on the device was progressing rapidly. It will hit the market within a year, she said.
She is working with Dr Bhanu Prakash and Asim Varma on the project. The prototypes, on display at the summit, have succeeded in detecting prostrate cancer, she disclosed.
Its transparent material, olydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), is etched using a laser to emulate endothelial cells, which line the insides of blood vessels.
When samples are placed on the sensor and observed under a microscope, medical professionals can tell if the patient has cancer, Shrma said.
cheap and effective
- Mother’s death from cancer prodded scientist Dr Deepika Sharma to design cancer detecting device
- Lowcost gadget can also be used to determine which treatment is appropriate for a patient
- Currently used to detect prostrate cancer, it can be used to test on other cancers soon
Noting that the cost of such devices shoot up when patented, Sharma said her team was keen to keep the price affordable.
“We will publish results of its success in the detection of prostate cancer within a year. Soon, we will be able to test it on other cancers,” she said.
The device can also be used to determine which treatment is appropriate for a patient.
“People respond to medicines differently. With the PDMS sensor, we can ascertain which medicines suit them better, rather than let them consume a cocktail of drugs,” Asim Varma said.
The current technique for detecting cancer – biopsy, in which a tissue is taken and examined closely in a lab – is expensive, with prices varying across hospitals. The nano-device will be a cost-effective alternative, he said.