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By Charles J. Murray
Embedded.com

Abstract:
PARK RIDGE , ILL. - Biochip development, which peaked two years ago during the national anthrax scare, has begun paying unexpected dividends, as research work in the area is yielding a new breed of so-called "protein chips" that could help with early detection of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

Researchers at a start-up nanotechnology company last week took a first step in commercializing the technology when they acquired a new protein-chip-based detection system that they hope to integrate into desktop products within a year.

"Protein chips are the next generation of biochip technology," noted Darrell Chandler, technical group leader for Argonne National Laboratory's Biochip Technology Center ( Argonne , Ill. ). "DNA chips were the first generation, and now a lot of people are working very hard on protein chips because they provide the ability to diagnose diseases based on certain protein signatures."

"Today, there are a lot of applications where the detection of proteins is fairly routine," William Cork, chief technical officer for Nanosphere said. "But this offers far greater sensitivity than those tests, and it gives more diagnostic information than has ever been available before."

For cancer victims, or for those with the potential of contracting certain cancers, the new technology reportedly could detect cancer much earlier - possibly ten times sooner than it is detected today.

"There is concurrence (within the research community) that we could detect it earlier," Cork said. "How much earlier we still don't know for sure."

Researchers said that the protein chip techniques could also be used for earlier detection of Alzheimer's Disease and HIV.

"The real value of the protein chips will definitely be in life science research," said Chandler of Argonne. "Discovery of the proteins will come first, and then we'll create tools to do the diagnostics."

Protein Chips Could Speed Cancer Detection