A nanotechnology called the "Lab-on-Bead" process may hasten and simplify the search for new cancer drugs.
Developed by researchers at Wake Forest University, the process will screen millions of chemicals simultaneously using tiny plastic beads, so small that 1,000 of them can be placed on a single strand of human hair.
Each bead in the process contains a different chemical, which, if turns out to be successful in treating cancer, can be identified later.
A single batch of nanoscopic beads can easily match thousands of conventional, repetitive laboratory tests.
"This process allows the beads to do the work for you. By working at this scale, we will be able to screen more than a billion possible drug candidates per day as opposed to the current limit of hundreds of thousands per day," explained Jed Macosko, project director and assistant professor of physics at Wake Forest.
He further said that they were developing a new device that could automate the Lab-on-Bead process, and permit parallel processing to attain faster screening results.
The researchers are also working with biotechnologists at Harvard University in Boston and Universite Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France, which are providing the chemicals being screened for drug candidates.