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Intel ISEF 2012 Finalist Profile

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A Novel Paper Sensor for the Detection of Pancreatic Cancer


Jack Andraka
North County High School, Glen Burnie, MD



Pancreatic cancer is a devastating disease with a five-year survival rate of 5.5%. One reason for this is the lack of a rapid, sensitive, inexpensive screening method. A novel paper sensor is described that simply, rapidly and inexpensively screens for pancreatic cancer. Mia Paca cells overexpressing mesothelin, a biomarker for pancreatic cancer, were cultured; mesothelin was isolated, concentrated and quantified with ELISA. After optimization with the Western Blot assay, the antibody to human mesothelin was dispersed with single walled carbon nanotubes. This dispersion was used to dip-coat strips of filter paper, rendering the paper conductive. Optimal layering was determined using a scanning electron microscope. Cell media spiked with varying amounts of mesothelin was applied to the paper biosensor. Change in electrical potential was measured before and after application and a dose-response curve was constructed with an R2 value of 99.92%. In vivo tests on human blood serum obtained from healthy people and patients with chronic pancreatitis, PanIn, pancreatic cancer revealed the same trends.. The sensor’s limit of detection was found to be 0.156 ng/mL, satisfying the limit of 10 ng/mL, the level considered an overexpression of mesothelin consistent with pancreatic cancer. The sensor costs $3.00; 10 tests can be performed per strip. A test takes 5 minutes and is 168 times faster, 26,667 times less expensive, and 400 times more sensitive than ELISA, 25% to 50% more accurate than the CA10-9 test and is a sensitive, accurate, inexpensive, and rapid screening tool to detect mesothelin, a biomarker for pancreatic cancer.

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