Cancer is an insidious disease that affects the lives of millions of people.  Modern technology and advanced medical breakthroughs have given the tools necessary to combat many types of cancer in Western Society.  We even have stellar mobile apps that help patients with cancer management.

Unfortunately, in the developing world, resources to battle cancer effectively are often lacking, and the mortality for treatable forms of cancer is often significantly worse — often times due to delayed diagnosis. One Michigan State University Professor, however, has decided to do something about it.

Syed Hashsham is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at MSU, and is developing the Gene-Z device, which is operated using an iPod Touch or Android-based tablet, and performs genetic analysis on microRNAs and various other genetic markers. Given that certain microRNAs have been linked to certain cancers, by analyzing them through the Gene-Z, a low cost method of detection and diagnosis for physicians in developing countries could be possible.

“Until now, little effort has been concentrated on moving cancer detection to global health settings in resource-poor countries,” he said. “Early cancer detection in these countries may lead to affordable management of cancers with the aid of new screening and diagnostic technologies that can overcome global health care disparities.”

A grant from the Michigan Economic Development Cooperation was given to Professor Hashsham to develop the Gene-Z along with Jim Tiedje from MSU and Erdogan Gulari from the University of Michigan.

Currently, Professor Hashsham is working toward a goal of validating the effectiveness of Gene-Z in the field and has partnered with Reza Nassiri, director of MSU’s Institute of International Health and an assistant dean in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, on the medical capabilities for the device and to network with physicians worldwide.

Additionally, at the National Institute of Health’s first Cancer Detection and Diagnosis Conference in Bethesda, Maryland, the effectiveness of the Gene-Z was demonstrated.

“Gene-Z has the capability to screen for established markers of cancer at extremely low costs in the field,” Hashsham said. “Because it is a hand-held device operated by a battery and chargeable by solar energy, it is extremely useful in limited-resource settings.”

Low cost technologies such as these are crucial to treating and diagnosing diseases in countries where a solid infrastructure, access to quality medical care, and political stability are lacking.

Source: Michigan State University