Scrunched up sheets of graphene act as ultra-sensitive cancer sensors

Faculty in the News: Rashid Bashir, Dean, Grainger College of Engineering & W.W. Grainger Chair, Bioengineering

Date

03/26/20
Illinois researchers found that crumpling graphene in DNA sensors made it tens of thousands of times more sensitive, making it a feasible platform for liquid biopsy. Credit: Mohammad Heiranian

New Atlas, March 24, 2020 - Scrunching graphene up into a wrinkled mess rather than a neat, flat sheet is a technique being explored by researchers pursuing a number of new technologies. These have included using crumpled balls as components for better batteries, combining them with rubber to form artificial muscles, or bunching crumpled graphene balls together for next-generation energy storage.

What excites the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign team is crumpled graphene’s potential in biosensing applications where it could spot disease when other diagnostic tools cannot. The scientists see particular promise when it comes to finding subtle biomarkers for cancer that can hide in nucleic acids like DNA and RNA, as our current methods of detecting them have plenty of room for improvement.

“When you have cancer, certain sequences are over-expressed,” explains Michael Hwang, the first author of the study. “But rather than sequencing someone’s DNA, which takes a lot of time and money, we can detect those specific segments that are cancer biomarkers in DNA and RNA that are secreted from the tumors into the blood.”

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