We are often told that early detection is one of the best ways to fight cancer. Currently, cancer detection is costly and often not performed until after health problems arise. By that time, cancer has progressed into stage 3 or even 4. The multidisciplinary team at Miroculus hopes to change this. They have created Miriam, an innovative technology that can detect dozens of cancers from a single blood sample.

How?

The answer is microRNAs. These small molecules are involved in gene expression and can be modified through genetic and environmental influences. Since cancer is a disease of altered gene expression, examining microRNA is logical and possibly crucial.

Basically, this 96-well plate (filled with blood) is put into a device. If microRNA is present, the wells glow. The brighter the wells glow, the more microRNA. After about an hour, the luminosity of the wells is determined and the pattern compared to ones in the database. This is done using an iPhone.

So, if the pattern produced from the patient’s blood sample matches a known pattern, the patient has cancer.

However, this method is still in the early stages, cannot identify all cancers and has some potential consequences. Is early detection really an efficient way of treating cancer or should we focus our energy somewhere else? Who will have access to this technology? Will it generate over-detection and over-diagnosis of cancer?

Nevertheless, Miroculus is stimulating much excitement in the scientific community as it is innovative, “techy” and possibly life-changing.

Want more? I highly suggest watching this TED talk given by Jorge Soto, one of the creators of Miriam. It is truly inspirational, astounding and mind-blowing. https://www.ted.com/talks/jorge_soto_the_future_of_early_cancer_detection

Image source: http://www.wired.com/2014/10/miroculus/

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