The tech allows for the separation of bioparticles down to a size of 20nm diameter which means that particles such as DNA, exosomes and viruses can be separated for analysis.
This means that diseases can be detected before any outward signs are visible and means that patients have a far better chance of recovery thanks to early treatment.
The company notes that it's developing this technology in conjunction with the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, and the first step in trialling will be to test it detecting prostate cancer in the US.
The lab-on-a-chip can analyse liquid biopsies from patients and is capable of detecting exosomes with cancer-specific biomarkers. Exosomes, by the way, are vesicles – a small structure within a cell – which are present in bodily fluids such as saliva and urine, and they're being seen as increasingly important in the diagnosis of malignant tumours.
The big idea is to reach a situation where a simple home diagnostic chip could allow people to regularly monitor their health via urine samples.
Gustavo Stolovitzky, Program Director of Translational Systems Biology and Nanobiotechnology at IBM Research, commented: "The ability to sort and enrich biomarkers at the nanoscale in chip-based technologies opens the door to understanding diseases such as cancer as well as viruses like the flu or Zika. Our lab-on-a-chip device could offer a simple, noninvasive and affordable option to potentially detect and monitor a disease even at its earliest stages, long before physical symptoms manifest."