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iPods, Androids could be cancer-detection tools

PBS NewsHour, September 2, 2011

Cancer screening...is there an app for that? Not quite, but a newly developed device run by an iPod Touch, iPad or Android tablet could help diagnose cancers in poor or rural settings, researchers say. The hand-held and solar-powered system, called a Gene-Z, can perform genetic analysis of blood samples in the field when connected to a consumer tablet like the Android. When a patient has cancer, certain changes occur in microRNAs -- molecules that regulate genes -- that can be detected by the device. The tool could be especially valuable to communities in low-income countries that are far from health centers, said Syed Hashsham, an environmental engineering professor at Michigan State University, who developed the device with colleague Jim Tiedje and Erdogan Gulari at the University of Michigan. "It's not replacing the existing powerful [cancer detection instruments], it is extending the arms of those devices to reach a much larger population," Hashsham said. To run a test, a blood sample is placed on a credit-card sized lab chip, called a microfluidic chip.