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Implantable sensor could monitor cancer
Researchers from M.I.T. have created a sensor implanted under the skin that can monitor inflammation and detect nitric acid, which can indicate certain cancers. The sensor could also be modified to detect glucose, which could help monitor diabetes, according to the study published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
In order to understand how nitric oxide functions when cancer is present, researchers created nanotube sensors, which are 1-nanometer-thick, hollow cylinders that are made out of carbon. Carbon nanotubes have a natural fluorescence, and when molecules attach themselves to a certain target, the tube brightens or dims.
One sensor was injected into the blood stream for short-term monitoring. In mice, the sensor was able to pass through the lungs and heart, and gather in the liver, without causing any harm. Once in the liver, it monitored the nitric oxide molecules. The second sensor was implanted under the skin for a longer period of time. When implanted in mice, it was functional and stayed in place for 400 days. This sensor could be useful for monitoring cancer, inflammation and immune response disorders.
Researchers are now working on the sensors to detect glucose. If the sensor is effective, it could eliminate the need for diabetic patients to take blood samples.