It is estimated that in 2035, the number of deaths caused by cancer worldwide will increase to more than 14 million, according to the 2017 report of the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology ( SEOM ). The race against this disease, scientists know it well, goes so far to find more effective ways to combat it, but also to detect it early.
Among the initiatives in this regard, is the proposal by researchers from two Swiss institutions, the Department of Science and Engineering of Biosystems of the Federal Polytechnic School of Zurich and the Faculty of Science of the University of Basel. Scientists have developed a system that allows early warning when there is a high rate of calcium in the blood , that is, hypercalcemia, a symptom associated with various types of cancers , in addition to other medical conditions such as kidney failure.
Specifically, it is a kind of biomedical tattoo with a calcium sensor that is implanted in the skin and only becomes visible when the concentration of this mineral in the blood is higher than normal.
“The diagnosis marks the beginning of any successful therapy. Because many medical conditions progress asymptomatically over long periods of time, timely diagnosis remains difficult and this negatively affects the patient’s prognosis,” explains Martin Fussenegger, lead author of the I study in the publication of his research.
“Focusing on hypercalcemia associated with cancer,” he continues, “we intend to develop a biomedical tattoo inspired by synthetic biology using genetically modified cells that would monitor blood calcium concentration in the long term, detect onset of mild hypercalcemia and respond subcutaneously by generating an accumulation of black pigment (melanin) to form a visible tattoo, “which manifests itself in the shape of a mole.
Certainly, says Guillermo de Velasco, scientific secretary of the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM), “malignant hypercalcemia is relatively common in cancer patients, including lung, prostate and breast. In general, it is associated with cancer patients advanced, but there are studies that indicate that even calcium levels slightly above normal values may be linked to an increased risk of diagnosis of this disease. ”
“This indicates,” he adds, “that this parameter could be used to make early diagnoses of cancer in asymptomatic people.” About biotattoos , Velasco states that “any system that allows early and simple alerting of changes in the blood is of great interest. However, with regard to the early detection of hypercalcemia, we must be cautious, we still do not have enough evidence to its use can be generalized . ”
At the moment, this sensor has been successfully tested on animals, but it still has a long stage of development ahead of it. This is not the only biomedical tattoo that science is developing. Some time ago, and as we told BuenaVida researchers from two American centers, the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Harvard Medical School communicated their project based on smart tattoos, created with a type of ink that changes color depending on the parameters of the organism , such as the level of sugar, which would be very useful for diabetics.