New Sensor Mimics Cell Membrane Functions

Drawing inspiration from natural sensory systems, an MIT-led team has designed a novel sensor that could detect the same molecules that naturally occurring cell receptors can identify. In work that combines several new technologies, the researchers created a prototype sensor that can detect an immune molecule called CXCL12, down to tens or hundreds of parts per billion. This is an important first step to developing a system that could be used to perform routine screens for hard-to-diagnose cancers or metastatic tumors, or as a highly biomimetic electronic “nose,” the researchers say. “Our hope is to develop a simple device that lets you do at-home testing, with high specificity and sensitivity. The earlier you detect cancer, the better the treatment, so early diagnostics for cancer is one important area we want to go in,” says Shuguang Zhang, PhD, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Media Lab.

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