Developing Novel Diagnostic Tools

BME researchers pursue new techniques to create needed diagnostic tests

Tuan Vo-Dinh Diagnosing Dengue and Malaria 

Tuan Vo-Dinh, Director of the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics, the R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Professor of Chemistry at Duke, is currently at work on multiple diagnostic assays for point-of-care settings. The first is a novel biochip that can detect the nucleic acid biotargets of infectious diseases such as the  the dengue virus using a method he has pioneered, known as surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS).His team has developed a method to use a smart phone to detect color changes in simple assays for rapid disease diagnostics in low-reource settings.

Vo-Dinh is also collaborating with clinician Steve Taylor of the Duke Global Health Institute to develop a novel lab-on-a-stick test that can use the SERS method to detect malaria, a disease that affects more than 200 million people around the globe.


Developing Diagnostic Tools for Cancer, Eye Diseases 

Adam Wax

BME’s Adam Wax is developing diagnostic devices that can be used to detect and diagnose cancers without the need for a biopsy. These diagnostic tools use low-coherence interferometry and light scattering to detect the size of cell nuclei beneath the tissue surface, which serve as powerful indicators of pre-cancerous conditions. Currently, Wax and his collaborators are creating spectrometers that are made with 3D printed parts to detect cancers in the esophagus, with the goal of using the devices to diagnose cervical cancer.

Wax has also developed a low-cost approach for optical coherence tomography (OCT), a widely-used technology for early detection and diagnosis of eye-related issues, including macular degeneration and glaucoma. OCT is a non-invasive imaging test that uses light waves to take images of a patient’s retina for screening purposes, but the devices that operate the technology are expensive, and they aren’t typically used outside of large eye centers. By developing a less-expensive, portable device for retinal imaging, Wax and Dr. Nick Ulrich, his collaborator from UNC, are paving the way for more healthcare providers to use OCT imaging for screening and diagnosis around the globe.