Innovation Campus


UOW researchers develop portable and non-invasive diagnostic tool for early detection of cancer

Scientists from the UOW Innovation Campus’ Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) and Griffith University have developed a new class of nanomaterials that can be used as an inexpensive, non-invasive diagnostic tool for the early detection of cancer.

The researchers aim to develop a portable diagnostic device for less than $5.

Most current diagnostic methods use expensive biomaterials and rely on sophisticated equipment, limiting their use in developing countries and other resource-poor settings.

The researchers developed a new class of gold-loaded nanoporous iron oxide nanocubes which, despite containing gold nanoparticles, are inexpensive to make and can deliver sensitive and specific results that can be analysed without laboratory equipment.

The research team recently published papers in three journals (Royal Society of Chemistry journals Nanoscale, and Chemical Communications, and the American Chemical Society journal Analytical Chemistry).

The team’s diagnostic method uses the gold-loaded nanoporous iron oxide nanocubes magnetically capture and isolate the autoantibodies in a serum sample. Autoantibodies are produced by the body against cancer specific proteins long before the appearance of any symptoms, thus serving as non-invasive biomarkers for early diagnosis of cancer.

Dr Muhammad J. A. Shiddiky, from Griffith University, said that portable electrochemical and naked-eye colorimetric readouts are then used to detect whether the autoantibodies are present in the sample.

“Naked-eye observation can be used as first-pass screening test (yes/no answer) for the presence of cancer-autoantibody, and once we get the positive result, we can further confirm and quantify the level of autoantibodies present in the samples by UV-vis or disposable screen printed electrode-based electrochemical readouts,” he said.

UOW members of the team were ARC Future Fellow Professor Yusuke Yamauchi, Dr Md. Shahriar Hossain, Mostafa Kamal Masud and Shunsuke Tanaka from the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM), and Professor Gursel Alici from the School of Mechanical, Materials, Mechatronics and Biomedical Engineering.

“Early diagnosis of cancer leads to more effective and cheaper treatment, and the majority of cancers can be treated successfully if they are detected at their earliest stages,” Dr Hossain said.

“However, current cancer diagnostic methods are relatively expensive and most people in developing countries can’t afford them and don’t have easy access to the equipment needed to perform them.

“The test we have developed is cheap, simple and portable. It can be used for rapid screening of early cancer biomarker in areas where people can’t afford the high economic burden of other cancer diagnostic methods.”

Mr Masud, who is undertaking his PhD through AIIM and is also a Research Associate at Griffith University’s Queensland Micro and Nanotechnology Centre (QMNC), played a crucial role in bringing researchers from the two universities together.

Given that the diagnostic tool has potential applications around the world, the group is now looking for industry partners to collaborate on the project.

This work was supported by higher degree research scholarships from the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) and Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, University of Wollongong.

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