Detecting the breast cancer gene with a smartphone

Detecting the breast cancer gene with a smartphone
LSU Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Manas Gartia uses smartphone to detect breast cancer gene (Source: LSU)


An LSU professor, along with his team of researchers have created an accessible way for women and men to test for the “BReast CAncer gene one," more commonly known as BRCA1.

LSU Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Manas Gartia wondered why there wasn’t a point-of-care device for breast cancer genetic testing like the ones that already exist for diabetes, pregnancy and other health conditions.

“Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in the United States,” Gartia said. “In 2015, 41,523 women died of breast cancer in the U.S., with 3,523 of those in Louisiana. We believe that early detection saves lives. That’s why genetic testing is so popular. People want to catch it [cancer] before it’s found in a mammogram.”


  • A positive test means there is a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, means higher risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer or pancreatic cancer in men
  • 60 percent of women who inherit the gene mutation will develop breast cancer (Source: Maurer Foundation)
  • Not all breast cancer is due to the genetic mutation and not all women or men with the mutation will develop breast cancer

“We chose the BRCA1 gene due to its high prevalence in half of the global population, and secondly, because a lot of researched data about the alterations and mutations are available at the gene level from various databases,” Gartia said.

Gartia proposes doing a DNA microarray analysis using a smartphone and portable fluorescence microarray-based imaging system called the FluoroZen, which provides results in 20 minutes, as opposed to paying for a home test kit, which would still require a doctor’s visit and can cost thousands of dollars as well as taking weeks for results.

“The rapid development of smartphone technology with increasing computing power, high-resolution cameras, GPS capabilities and internet connectivity has enabled a smartphone-based POC testing [POCT] platform suitable for field deployment,” Gartia said.


The FluoroZen works by analyzing DNA – saliva or blood – that is placed on nitrocellulose, or NC, paper, which is then set on a glass slide holder. The FluoroZen detects the fluorescent oligonucleotide spots on the NC paper using two light spectrum filters – one to excite the fluorescent dye and the second to capture the emission spectrum. The spots with higher intensity will be brighter, indicating the presence of the mutated BRCA1 gene. A smartphone, which is attached to the POC device, then shows the results (a simple YES or NO) on the screen after taking a picture of the spots.

“There will be a smartphone app to download so you can see the results,” Gartia said.

Gartia looks forward to the day his FluoroZen will be completed and available to the public through their doctor’s office. Until then, he emphasizes the importance of early detection and, on an optimistic note, stresses that not all women and men should get tested for the BRCA1 gene.

“Only 10 percent of people have this inherited gene,” he said.

“There are many questions to answer before getting tested.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about getting tested for the BRCA1 gene.

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