San Diego molecular biologists leading liquid biopsy revolution

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A new cancer screening method is promising to eliminate the need for painful biopsies and greatly reduce the cost of the procedure.

It's part of a line of research known as liquid biopsy and the latest advancement is being ramped up for mass production by an entrepreneurial couple in Torrey Pines at the research firm, BioFluidica.  

Among billions of blood cells, the company has developed a chip capable of finding a single abnormal cell afflicted with cancer or other diseases.

"It is probably the most sophisticated injection molding piece in this world," said molecular biologist Rolf Muller, as he holds up a thin, plastic chip about two inches square.

First developed by researchers in North Carolina, the chip is injected with a small blood sample which can contain billions of individual cells. The blood passes through 150 tiny tunnels within the chip which are coated with antibodies. Those antibodies do their natural work of isolating the abnormal cells.

Researchers can then identify them for any possible threat and treatment.

The Mullers say the screenings have the potential to dramatically increase survival rates for cancer patients. And to eliminate the need for the often painful biopsies currently in use.

They also envision the test becoming a normal part of standard blood screenings. The chip is currently in clinical trials. It could be available for general use within two years.

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