In brief: Diagnosing disease
Seeking global access to cervical cancer prevention
Women in the developing world have a far greater chance of dying of cervical cancer than American women largely because of the lack of screening programs that could detect precursors of the cancer when it’s more treatable.
Princeton senior Shivani Sud, a molecular biology major working toward an engineering biology certificate, has a plan to change that. Working with Wole Soboyejo, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Sud is developing a system that uses an off-the-shelf digital camera and freely available software produced by the National Institutes of Health to help clinic workers who have modest training identify women who should receive further care.
With the Princeton system, a clinic worker takes a picture of a woman’s cervix during a gynecological exam then swabs the cervix with vinegar or a similar solution and takes another picture.
The software performs a pixel-by-pixel comparison of the two pictures to identify cancerous or precancerous tissue, which changes color when exposed to vinegar.
“Sometimes it’s not invention,” Sud said, “but innovation that’s needed, taking things that we take for granted and putting them together in a novel way that is a practical solution for another community.”
Sud tested the system in India last summer and planned to return during winter break to continue refining it.
Printable sensors form basis for many tests
Princeton engineers are collaborating with Maryland-based Vorbeck Materials to develop printable sensors that greatly improve the performance of many basic medical tests.
The researchers in the laboratory of Ilhan Aksay, professor of chemical and biological engineering, are using “functionalized graphene” — a singleatom- thick sheet of carbon with certain structural and chemical modifications — that could form the basis for inexpensive, highly reliable tests for chemicals such as glucose and dopamine.
The technology is being commercialized by Vorbeck, which recently established a research lab in Princeton near the University to continue the collaboration.