Graphene – a strong material made from layers of single carbon atoms – could hold the key to unlocking the next generation of advanced, early stage lung cancer diagnosis, according to a new study published in the journal Nanoscale.
A team of scientists from the University of Exeter has developed a technique that could create a highly sensitive graphene biosensor with the capability to detect molecules of the most common lung cancer biomarkers.
The new biosensor design could replace existing electronic nose devices, that identify specific components of a specific vapour mixture – for example a person’s breath – and analyses its chemical make-up to identify the cause.
The research team believe the newly developed device displays the potential to identify specific lung cancer markers at the earliest possible stage, in a convenient and reusable way, making it both cost-effective and highly beneficial for health service providers worldwide.
Ben Hogan, a postgraduate researcher from the University of Exeter and co-author of the paper, said: ‘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.’
Although it is one of the most common and aggressive cancers, killing around 1.4 million people worldwide each year, the lack of clinical symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer many patients are not diagnosed until the latter stage, which makes it difficult to cure.
There are currently no cheap, simple, or widely available screening methods for early diagnosis. The team from Exeter looked at whether graphene could form the basis for a new, enhanced biosensor device.
Using patterned multi-layered graphene electrodes, they were able to show greater sensing capabilities for three of the most common lung-cancer biomarkers – ethanol, isopropanol and acetone – across a range of different concentrations.