A new diagnostic test shows promise for detecting the disease earlier. The test, which is at the proof-of-concept stage, can rapidly screen a drop of blood for bio-markers of pancreatic cancer. It can provide results in less than an hour.

Lab setup used to test blood samples. (Credit: UCSD)

The chip used in this test works by applying an alternating electric current, which selectively pulls nano-sized particles like exosomes out of the blood and deposits them onto tiny electrodes on the chip's surface. Larger blood particles get washed away while smaller ones such as exosomes are left behind. Researchers then apply fluorescently labeled antibodies that specifically target two protein biomarkers for pancreatic cancer: glypican-1 and CD63. If these biomarkers are present, brightly colored circles where the antibodies bind can be seen under a microscope, indicating a positive result. This entire process can be done in less than an hour.

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