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LSU professor working to detect breast cancer gene with smartphone

An LSU assistant professor and a team of researchers are working to make testing for the breast cancer gene—commonly known as BRCA 1—more affordable and accessible for patients who may not have easy access to specialist physicians.

Manas Gartia, a mechanical engineering assistant professor, proposes doing a DNA microarray analysis using a smartphone, or any high-resolution camera, and portable imaging system he calls FluoroZen, which can provide results in 20 minutes.

The development of smartphone technology with increasing computing power and high-resolution cameras makes it an affordable and accessible option to be used by primary care physicians in their office, he says.

The researchers haven’t conducted a cost analysis for the FluoroZen, but he estimates it would only cost $50 or less to run each test.

“Doctors can charge more, but generally, all the costs are covered by insurance,” he says. “Most of the cost during our research is due to reagents and purification and extraction of DNA from blood or saliva. The cost of the microfluidic device is less than $5 and less than $1 if mass produced.”

The FluoroZen is still a few years from being mass produced. Gartia, who has been working with a team of three students on the product since 2016, hopes to begin clinical trials for the product in a year or two.

“It’s all about early detection and how you can do it without burdening the system and standing in line. All that testing can cost a lot of money,” Gartia says. “This can really save a life.”

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