IBM scientists Joshua Smith and Benjamin Wunsch have developed lab-on-a-chip technology by using nanoscale deterministic lateral displacement technology.

IBM team’s results demonstrated that the technology can separate and detect particles as small as 20 nm, helping to access particles such as DNA, viruses and exosomes.

Once separated, the physicians can analyze particles to potentially disclose signs of disease even before patients experience any physical symptoms and when the outcome from treatment is most positive.

IBM is partnering with Mount Sinai-based Icahn School of Medicine to continue the development of the lab-on-a-chip technology.

The partnership will initially test the technology on prostate cancer, the common cancer in men in the U.S.

Exosomes, which are used as biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of malignant tumors, will be released through bodily fluids such as blood, saliva or urine.

IBM team used its lab-on-chip technology to separate and purifying exosomes in liquid biopsies, which are in size from 20-140nm. It included information about the health of the originating cell that they are shed from.

A determination of the size, surface proteins and nucleic acid cargo carried by exosomes are expected to provide crucial information about the presence and state of developing cancer and other diseases.

IBM Research translational systems biology and nanobiotechnology program director Gustavo Stolovitzky said: “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.”