Device uses acoustic vibrations to detect cancer at earlier stages


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A researcher and his students in the Dwight Look College of Engineering are developing a device that detects cancer by identifying the mechanical properties of cancer cells.

Yong Joe-Kim directs The Acoustics & Signal Processing Laboratory, and is an associate professor and Pioneer Natural Resources Faculty Fellow II in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His team’s work is supported with a National Science Foundation grant.

Kim’s team worked with students from the NanoBio Systems Laboratory, directed by Arum Han, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, to develop an acoustic manipulation device. The device has the potential to decrease the amount of time needed to determine the effectiveness of a treatment.

The team uses the pressure generated in the device to manipulate small fluid samples, such as blood drawn during an examination.

The device introduces an acoustic vibration to the sample, causing the unique mechanical properties of each cell to react differently.

Mechanical properties such as compressibility, size, density and the response to sound waves are unique for each cell in the human body. The cells reactions to the device can be viewed under a microscope, allowing clearer identification of cancerous cells.

“This is different from the current cancer detection methods as we are identifying how a cancer cell is behaving based on its mechanical properties in response to a specific treatment,” Kim said.

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