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Nano-devices hold promise for early-stage cancer detection

They are miniature labs that can be swallowed like a pill, injected through a catheter, or woven into fabric. Their function is to screen for, detect, and potentially treat, cancer and other diseases when they are still at a single-cell size in early development stages. They will also detect harmful pathogens in food and water.

Engineering researchers at McMaster University will be escalating efforts to develop these micro- and nanotechnology-based bio-sensors and imaging devices through the support of a recently announced $4.25 million grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

"This research is opening up a new front in the battle against cancer and other diseases," said Jamal Deen, the lead applicant, professor of electrical and computer engineering and Canada Research Chair in Information Technology, McMaster University. "The technology zeros in on specific malignant cells at an early stage when treatment can be more effective and potential side effects minimized."

The funding is part of a $10.6 million initiative to expand existing nano-fabrication and integration facilities at McMaster to establish a world-class Micro- and Nano-Systems Laboratory for the development of miniaturized, low-cost and easy-to-use prototypes for imaging and sensing in healthcare and environmental applications.

"The imaging and sensing technologies being pursued would be non-invasive, removing the discomfort, expense, and risk associated with many screening procedures, such as a colonoscopy," said Qiyin Fang, assistant professor of engineering physics and Canada Research Chair in Biophotonics at McMaster. "It would therefore allow for large-scale screening for early disease detection."

The bio-sensors and imaging devices being explored are based on integrating dissimilar technologies such as DNA, semiconductors, nanowires and polymers into "smart systems" on a small chip. The resulting micro-labs could contain miniaturi
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Source:McMaster University


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