A research paper titled “Effects of Nanotexture on Electrical Profiling of Single Tumor Cell and Detection of Cancer from Blood in Microfluidic Channels” and published in the Nature’s Scientific Reports details the success of a scientific team from the University of Texas in Arlington in creating a tool that is capable of detecting cancers at the cellular level.
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This initiative promises to be a cancer detection-treatment breakthrough for the scientific community, and it could be the different between longevity of life for a cancer patient and early death. The study was led by Dr. Samir Iqbal, an associate professor in the Electrical Engineering Department of the institution, who created the early cancer diagnostic tool that analyzes cellular behavior in real-time using nanotextured walls that simulate layers of body tissue.
Iqbal worked with a project team that comprised of Young-tae Kim, a UTA associate professor in the Bioengineering Department; Muhymin Islam, a STEM doctoral candidate; and engineering students Mohammad Motasim Bellah, Adeel Sajid and Mohammad Raziul Hasan.
Understanding the several layers of tissue within a human system was necessary to enable the scientists to create another system that simulates this tissue layers.
“The answer was in creating a nanotextured wall that fools blood samples into thinking its actual tissue,” Iqbal said. “We used inherent properties of the cell walls to create a diagnostic tool. The cancer cells behave differently as they come into contact with the nanotextured walls. They dance.”
Being able to see the “dancing cells” enables the researchers to identify cancer cells earlier than current technology allows, because early detection of cancer at the cellular level is key to winning the battle over cancer and ensuring the survival of the patient – just before the cancer metastasizes – and Iqbal says “Our device has the potential to do just that”.
The National Science Foundation in 2014 released a grant of $480,000 to design and create this promising diagnostic tool. Since he arrived UTA in 2007, Iqbal has received close to $1.4 million in grants to carry out various researches which include creating a nanoelectronic microfluidic biochip to detect biomarkers among other initiatives.
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“Dr. Iqbal and his colleagues are bringing engineering innovation to meet the challenge of early cancer detection," said Khosrow Behbehani, dean of College of Engineering at UTA. “The research aligns with UTA’s Strategic Plan, particularly the focus on Health and the Human Condition. Dr. Iqbal’s device could greatly improve cancer survival rates, which is good news for humanity. There are very few people around the world whose lives have not been touched by this dreadful disease.”