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2D material sensor ‘detects cancer with 70% fewer cells than other electronic sensors’

Professional Engineering

Stock image. The 2D material-based sensor detected signals from cancer cells when exposed to 70% fewer cells than other electronic sensors (Credit: Shutterstock)
Stock image. The 2D material-based sensor detected signals from cancer cells when exposed to 70% fewer cells than other electronic sensors (Credit: Shutterstock)

Researchers have claimed a potential breakthrough in cancer diagnostics after reportedly detecting cancer with a record low number of cells, using a sensor based on two-dimensional (2D) materials.

The new sensor detected electrical signals indicating the presence of cancer with about 70% fewer cancer cells than conventional electronic sensors require, according to Dr Desmond Loke, principal investigator on the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) project.  

Cells produce unique electrical signals, which can be linked to cancers such as breast, lung, liver, brain, pancreas or prostate cancers, meaning they can be used as indicators for early diagnosis.  

A team of researchers from SUTD and the A*STAR Bioinformatics Institute in Singapore developed a sensor for the detection of breast cancer cells, which produce strong electrical signals. Detecting signals from breast cancer cells has received significant attention from the biomedical community, leading to the research and development of a wide range of sensing methods, such as electronic biosensors.  

Conventional biosensing methods can require a high number of cancer cells for successful detection, the researchers said, so a low-cell-number sensing process is needed.  

Dr Loke said: “2D materials have been the subject of recent active research and are used in a wide range of applications, including biosensing. In this work, we have combined molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) nanosheets with an electric current, leading to a new range of possibilities in the field of biosensing.” 

Two-dimensional materials are only a few atom layers thick, and offer unique electronic properties. The researchers embedded the 2D material into the cell membrane. Computer simulations indicated that disruption of the cancer cell membrane, and the angle of the 2D sheets, contributed to an increase in resistance in the circuit.  

The extracted cell membrane components could also have increased resistance between the nanosheet and the cell membrane, acting as an insulator and impeding current flow. 

“Our study provides a way for developing new sensors for the detection of breast cancer cells. Moreover, this sensitive detection method could boost the chances of breast cancer patient survival,” said Dr Loke.  


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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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