Scientists at the University of Exeter, U.K., are taking advantage of the unique properties that graphene possesses in order to create a highly sensitive biosensor with the ability to detect the most common biomarkers within lung cancer. This exceptional carbon material could open the door for the next generation of advanced,early-stage lung cancer diagnostic tools.
The device would advance on the existing technology of electronic nose (e-nose) instruments, which identify and analyze components of a specific vapor mixture. They usually consist of a mechanism for chemical detection, such as an array of electronic sensors, and a mechanism for pattern recognition, such as a neural network. Similar equipment has brought benefits to a variety of commercial industries, agriculture, biomedical, cosmetics, environmental, food, water and various scientific research fields.
“We believe that with further development of our devices, a cheap, reusable and accurate breath test for early-stage detection of lung cancer can become a reality”, noted postgraduate researcher Ben Hogan.
Smells are composed of molecules, with specific sizes and shapes. As the cancer cells multiply inside the lungs, they are prone to spread freely within this environment and leave traces.
By using patterned multi-layered graphene (MLG) electrodes, the team was able to pick up with greater sensing accuracy three of the most common lung-cancer biomarkers, ethanol, isopropanol and acetone from a range of different concentrations.
“The new biosensors which we have developed show that graphene has significant potential for use as an electrode in e-nose devices. For the first time, we have shown that with suitable patterning graphene can be used as a specific, selective and sensitive detector for biomarkers”, added Hogan.
In their study, they explain the reasons for choosing graphene, as it offers a large surface area and superior electrical conductivity, is extremely stable under the environmental conditions and does not degrade with time, and exhibits antibacterial effects. The material is responsive to a number of tissue samples, blood, urine, sweat, biopsy material.
The goal is to create a widely available and inexpensive device that can reliably detect early-stage lung cancer, a disease which claims more than 1.7 million lives each year.
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