Apr 1, 2021
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You just need to breathe out

In mid-March, the rector of the Volga Research Medical University, Nikolai Karjakin, spoke about the latest invention of Nizhny Novgorod scientists. The technology is as follows: a special sensor biochip calculates markers of stomach cancer in the exhaled air. The authorship belongs to the specialists of the Laboratory of Functional Imaging of the N.N. N.I. Lobachevsky UNN).

Without exaggeration, I can say that the results obtained are a real breakthrough and an excellent prospect for accelerating the screening of diseases, primarily cancer,

– Karjakin is sure.

Tsargrad spoke with the head of the Laboratory for Functional Imaging at UNN Albina Lebedeva

– How does the technology work?

– By order of the Advanced Research Fund (FPI), we are working on a project dedicated to the development of a detection system (determination – Ed.) Of target substances in the air at ultra-low concentrations. The presence of a substance is determined using a biosensor chip with a cell culture on which the receptors are located. The latter fix the target substance – in our project it is a tumor marker of stomach cancer. Such a marker is found in the exhaled air of patients with stomach cancer.

The biochip receptors, upon contact with the exhaled air, record the signs (markers) of stomach cancer.

– How does this apparatus work?

– The basis of the hardware complex is a biochip. It has very thin microchannels into which we plant cells with receptors. We have also developed a perfusion system that allows the signal to be removed from the cell culture. The last part of the hardware complex is the detector itself, which is an automated registration system. This is such a specialized microscope.

– How else can this development be used, except detecting stomach cancer?

– We are able to non-invasively, that is, without penetration into the body, fix some target substances (of another disease. – Ed.). Exhaled air may contain markers other than stomach cancer. It is also a way to detect lung cancer and diabetes in real time.

– Can this method be applied only under laboratory conditions?

– At this stage, it is, of course, laboratory technology. It is planned to develop a mobile reading device that can be installed in crowded places.

– How accurate is this diagnostic method?

– Up to 95%. Moreover, we can use the technology against the background of interference in the form of various impurities.

– How long will it take for this technology to reach hospitals and cancer centers?

– This is a difficult question … There are still many stages of research ahead of the applied use of this technology. I think that prototypes will appear in at least five years.

– How expensive is this technology?

– Taking into account all labor costs, the cost of a biochip is significant. Its cell culture components are not that expensive. But now this technology is unique, it is produced by the hands of our employees … A recording device – a microscope – is a rather expensive device. In the future, if it is possible to develop a mobile microscope, then the cost of devices for applied applications will not be so high.

Cultivation of cells is an inexpensive process, but significant labor costs require the production of receptors that are fixed in this cell culture. We are talking about engineering molecular biological work.

The uniqueness of the technology lies in the fact that one biochip can work up to five hours, and in the future – up to several days. That is, dozens of people can be examined at once with one chip.

– Will this technology be protected by any patents?

– Of course. Within the framework of the project, the results of intellectual activity, six secrets of production were developed, the copyright holder of which is the Russian Federation represented by the FPI. They reflect the main provisions of the technology. In the future, interested organizations will be able to interact with the fund on the issue of obtaining these production secrets.

– What is the laboratory team working on now?

– At the moment we are successfully completing the approbation of the technology on the basis of the Volga Medical University. The experiment was carried out on three groups of subjects: a group with confirmed stomach cancer, a group with gastrointestinal problems (with gastritis) and a group of conditionally healthy people. The technology has shown that the percentage of biomarkers in exhaled air is significantly higher in the first group than in the other two. This is a good starting point for further research, as it is necessary to find out at what stages of cancer and precancer this biomarker can occur.

Now the scientific and technical acceptance of our technology is underway – all control activities and demonstration experiments have been successfully carried out. In the coming years, we are faced with the task of developing and improving technology.

Sergey Klemes

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