Brain tumors (illustrated here) can someday be detected, identified, and pinpointed with a new blood test. (Credit:

Researchers have developed a biosensor that could help physicians precisely diagnose brain cancer from a minute blood sample.

The researchers used high-intensity laser beams to form 3D nickel-nickel oxide nanolayers on a nickel chip. This process resulted in an ultrasensitive biosensor that allowed them to detect minute amounts of tumor-derived materials such as nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids that made it through the blood-brain-barrier into the circulation.

The sensor detected these components using a method known as surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, which generated molecular profiles, or fingerprints, for each sample. The researchers then analyzed these profiles with a DEEP neural network to find evidence of a brain tumor and define its type, as well as predict its location within the brain.

Using the liquid biopsy platform, the researchers could detect brain cancer from just five microliters of blood serum, and they could distinguish it from breast, lung and colorectal cancer with 100 percent specificity and sensitivity.