A cellphone camera is sufficient to examine tissue samples for tumor cells. (©Fraunhofer IAP)

Antibodies combat viruses and bacteria. They also attach themselves to cancer cells. Scientists are using this property to detect cancer cells in tissue samples. This polymer-based rapid test visually differentiates tumor cells from healthy cells in a tissue section through the use of a simple microscope.

After a surgeon has placed the antibody on the tissue sample, a colored water solution is added, with which the individual enzymes of the antibody oxidize. The color of the solution changes, and the tissue sites at which this happens contain diseased tissue. A cross test characteristically dyes the healthy cells in the next step. Once neither of the two tests detect any more tumor cells, the surgeon can conclude the operation – all of the diseased cells have been removed.