Disease sensor tests bodily fluids

A University of Missouri researcher is developing an acoustic resonant sensor that could test bodily fluids for a variety of diseases, including breast and prostate cancers.

’Many disease-related substances in liquids are not easily tracked,’ said Jae Kwon, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the university. ’In a liquid environment, most sensors experience a significant loss of signal quality, but by using highly sensitive, low-signal-loss acoustic resonant sensors in a liquid, these substances can be effectively and quickly detected – a concept that will result in a noninvasive approach for breast-cancer detection.’

Kwon’s real-time acoustic resonant sensor uses micro/nanoelectromechanical systems (M/NEMS) to directly detect diseases in body fluids. The sensor can be integrated with equally small circuits, creating the potential for small, standalone disease-screening systems.

Kwon’s sensor also produces rapid, almost immediate results that could reduce patient anxiety often felt after waiting for other detection methods, such as biopsies, with which can take several days or weeks before results are known.

’Our ultimate goal is to produce a device that will simply and quickly diagnose multiple specific diseases, and eventually be used to create point-of-care systems – which are services provided to patients at their bedsides,’ Kwon said. ’The sensor has strong commercial potential to be manifested as simple home kits for easy, rapid and accurate diagnosis of various diseases, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.’

Last January, Kwon was awarded a $400,000 (£250,000) five-year National Science Foundation Career Award to continue his research efforts on the sensor.