A team of Technion researchers led by Associate Professor Tomer Shlomi and doctoral students Boris Sarvin and Shoval Lagziel, has developed a new method for rapid, inexpensive analysis of blood samples that can be used in diagnostics, including detecting disease biomarkers. Its first application will be to test for early signs of various cancerous tumors.

The innovative technology, described in Nature Communications, is based on a unique combination of computational methods and mass spectrometry — a type of analysis that can determine what molecules make up a sample. But mass spectrometry requires a time-consuming, expensive pre-step of spinning each sample to separate the materials according to chemical properties. This step, called chromatography, has made it impractical for analyzing the thousands of biological samples needed in diagnostics.

Prof. Shlomi’s research group devised a method that skips the chromatography step without significantly impairing the quality of the analysis. Moreover, the test is completed in just 30 seconds, shortening the process by about 98% and reducing its cost by a similar rate. According to Prof. Shlomi, the novelty lies in the team’s computational method, which identifies optimal working configurations in the mass spectrometry, allowing for a high-sensitivity analysis for specific types of biological samples.

Prof. Shlomi is the principal investigator at the Cancer Metabolism and Systems Biology Lab in the Lorry I. Lokey Center for Life Sciences and Engineering, and a member of The Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science and the Faculty of Biology.