Crumpled graphene sensors ultra-sensitive for detecting cancer

Crumpled graphene sensors are ultra-sensitive for detecting cancer with an excellent ability to conduct heat and electricity. Graphene promises to find applications in all kinds of areas by crumpling the one-atom-thick sheets of carbon into irregular surfaces, and scientists hope to extend its amazing properties even further. A research team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has uncovered an exciting new possibility for the so-called wonder material, finding it can serve as the basis of an ultra-sensitive biosensor for early cancer diagnosis.

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.”

This breakthrough stems from a new technique that boosts the electronic properties of graphene. Previously, researchers have attempted to do this by integrating tiny structures into the material, but the scientists believe they have found a better way forward. Read full article here.


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