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Carbon nanotubes used to more easily detect cancer cells, HIV

Sam Sheffer
03.31.11
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Cancer's not slowing its march to ruining as many lives as it possibly can, so it's always pleasing to hear of any new developments that act as hurdles. The latest in the world of disease-prevention comes from Harvard University, where researches have created a dime-sized carbon nanotube forest (read: lots of nanotubes, like those shown above) that can be used to trap cancer cells when blood passes through. A few years back, Mehmet Toner, a biomedical engineering professor at Harvard, created a device similar to the nano-forest that was less effective because silicon was used instead of carbon tubes. Today, Toner has teamed up with Brian Wardle, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, who together have redesigned the original microfluid device to work eight times more efficiently than its predecessor. The carbon nanotubes make diagnosis a fair bit simpler, largely because of the antibodies attached to them that help trap cancer cells as they pass through -- something that's being tailored to work with HIV as well. Things are starting to look moderately promising for cancer-stricken individuals, as hospitals have already began using the original device to detect malignant cells and ultimately prevent them from spreading -- here's hoping it's qualified for mass adoption sooner rather than later.

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