Researchers developing take home cancer test

Published: Sep. 20, 2017 at 2:40 PM EDT
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Detecting early stage cancer and infectious diseases may soon be as simple as a home pregnancy test.

Researchers at Michigan Technological University are developing technology to do just that.

"People worry about if they are infected with certain diseases. So we hope that we can develop a safe, accurate and simple to use diagnostic technique that can help people to do the diagnostic at home," said MTU biomedical researcher Xiaohu Xia.

Gold nanoparticles in these test strips react with biomarkers in blood or urine creating a red color visible to the naked eye.

These take-home strips could cut down on expensive trips to doctor's office.

"This is very significant, especially in rural areas and developing countries for example. Each test strip is only several dollars, and also it is very rapid, like in 10 or 20 minutes you can detect the results," said Xia.

There was one drawback to the technology. Gold nanoparticles only react in very high biomarker concentrations seen in later stages of cancer. In order to detect disease or cancer at an earlier stage, researchers had to make some changes.

"We oftentimes want to detect significant diseases at a very low concentration. So the key is to coat a very thin layer of platinum on conventional gold nanoparticles. So we enhanced the detection sensitivity by about 100 times," said Xia.

MTU researchers are currently collaborating with a similar project at a San Francisco biocompany to commercialize the test strips. Take-home test strips for cancer and other diseases could be on the shelves in the next three to five years.

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation. More information is available here: