Pakistani electrical engineer at the University of Texas at Arlington has developed a new cancer cell detection method that will be able to improve early diagnosis of cancer.
Samir Iqbal, an associate professor in the Electrical Engineering Department, detailed his team’s results in a recent Nature’s Scientific Reports paper called “Effects of Nanotexture on Electrical Profiling of Single Tumor Cell and Detection of Cancer from Blood in Microfluidic Channels.”
The tool works by tracking cellular behavior in real time using nanotextured walls that mimic layers of body tissue.
Iqbal has worked on the project with Young-tae Kim, a UTA associate professor in the Bioengineering Department; Muhymin Islam, a STEM doctoral candidate; and engineering students Mohammad Motasim Bellah, Adeel Sajid and Mohammad Raziul Hasan.
Iqbal said his team observed the many layers of tissue in the human body and decided to develop something that would mimic that layering.
“The answer was in creating a nanotextured wall that fools blood samples into thinking its actual tissue,” Iqbal said. “We used inherent properties of the cell walls to create a diagnostic tool. The cancer cells behave differently as they come into contact with the nanotextured walls. They dance,” he added.
Identifying those “dancing cells” will help doctors pinpoint cancer cells and start treatment earlier than allowed with current technology.
“Discovering the cancer earlier, before it metastasizes, is essential to surviving cancer,” Iqbal said. “Our device has the potential to do that.”
The published results stem from a 2014 $480,000 National Science Foundation funding that sponsored the design and creation of the device. Iqbal has received nearly $1.4 million in grants since his arrival at UTA in 2007.
Those grants included an NSF CAREER grant to create a nanoelectronic microfluidic biochip to detect biomarkers. He also directs the UTA Nano-Bio Lab and is an affiliated faculty for the UTA Bioengineering Department.
Iqbal also is an adjunct professor in the Department of Urology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. In addition to his numerous research accolades, Iqbal is a senior member of IEEE-USA, a member of Biomedical Engineering Society, American Physical Society, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Biophysical Society.
In 2013, Tau Beta Pi inducted him as an Eminent Engineer. Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the UTA College of Engineering, said Iqbal’s research is groundbreaking. “Dr. Iqbal and his colleagues are bringing engineering innovation to meet the challenge of early cancer detection,” Behbehani said.
“The research aligns with UTA’s Strategic Plan, particularly the focus on Health and the Human Condition. Dr. Iqbal’s device could greatly improve cancer survival rates, which is good news for humanity. There are very few people around the world whose lives have not been touched by this dreadful disease.”
Iqbal did his bachelors from NED University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi in 1996 after which he did his PhD from Purdue University in Indiana.