“In some cases, the tumors under observation must be measured by hand with calipers,” says Alex Abramson, first author of the study and a recent post-doc in the lab of Zhenan Bao at the Stanford School of Engineering and now an assistant professor at Georgia Tech. The use of metal pincer-like calipers to measure soft tissues is not ideal, and radiological approaches cannot deliver the sort of continuous data needed for real-time assessment. FAST [“Flexible Autonomous Sensor measuring Tumors”] can detect changes in tumor volume on the minute-timescale, while caliper and bioluminescence measurements often require weeks-long observation periods to read out changes in tumor size.FAST’s sensor is composed of a flexible and stretchable skin-like polymer that includes an embedded layer of gold circuitry. This sensor is connected to a small electronic backpack designed by former post-docs and co-authors Yasser Khan and Naoji Matsuhisa. The device measures the strain on the membrane—how much it stretches or shrinks—and transmits that data to a smartphone. Using the FAST backpack, potential therapies that are linked to tumor size regression can quickly and confidently be excluded as ineffective or fast-tracked for further study.
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