Terahertz Biosensor Offers Breakthrough in Skin Cancer Diagnosis

Subarna Debbarma (BPT, DNHE)

In a monumental stride towards early cancer detection, researchers from the University of Glasgow and Queen Mary University of London have unveiled a groundbreaking biosensor harnessing terahertz (THz) waves. Published in the prestigious IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, their study introduces a transformative tool capable of detecting skin cancer with unprecedented sensitivity, heralding a new era in diagnostic precision.

Terahertz Biosensor Offers Breakthrough in Skin Cancer Diagnosis

Skin cancer, afflicting approximately one in four men and one in five women at least once in their lifetime in the UK, poses a significant public health concern. Comprising basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, timely diagnosis is paramount for effective treatment and prognosis. However, conventional diagnostic modalities rely on costly, time-intensive CT and PET scans, often supplemented by invasive higher-frequency technologies, underscoring the urgent need for more accessible and efficient diagnostic solutions.

Driven by the potential of THz metasurfaces, researchers devised a cutting-edge biosensor engineered to discern subtle cellular alterations. Characterized by diminutive, asymmetric resonators on a flexible substrate, the biosensor meticulously analyzes an array of parameters, including resonance frequency, transmission magnitude, and the Full Width at Half Maximum, to afford a comprehensive evaluation of tissue composition. This nuanced approach enables the precise differentiation between healthy and cancerous cells, while also facilitating the quantification of tissue malignancy.

Remarkably, the biosensor exhibited remarkable efficacy in discriminating between normal skin cells and BCC cells across varying concentrations, showcasing its unparalleled sensitivity and diagnostic acumen. Professor Qammer Abbasi, co-director for communication sensing and imaging hub at the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering, underscores the transformative potential of this innovation: "Integrating [THz] imaging technology into this type of flexible, portable, reusable sensor could make cancer screening a quicker and more comfortable procedure for patients."

Dr. Shohreh Nourinovin, postdoctoral research associate at Queen Mary’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, emphasizes the far-reaching implications of this breakthrough: "The implications of this study extend far beyond skin cancer detection." She highlights the versatility of THz biosensing technology, envisioning its application in the early detection of diverse cancers and diseases, including Alzheimer’s, particularly in resource-limited settings owing to its portability and affordability.

As the medical community continues to confront the challenges of cancer diagnosis and treatment, the advent of the THz biosensor represents a paradigm shift towards precision medicine. With its potential to democratize access to early detection and improve patient outcomes, this innovative technology holds immense promise in the ongoing battle against cancer and other debilitating diseases.

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