Research / Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Research Highlights /

Research Highlights

New Procedure Easily Detects Colon Cancer

Aug 07, 2020

Images from An endoscope with integrated transparent bioelectronics and theranostic nanoparticles for colon cancer treatment
Images from An endoscope with integrated transparent bioelectronics and theranostic nanoparticles for colon cancer treatment

Professor HYEON Taeghwan (Dept. of Chemical and Biological Engineering) and his research team at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) have developed a new multifunctional endoscope that paves way for an easier method for diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer. His work was recently published in Nature Communications, the online publication for Nature magazine.

The conventional endoscope has been long used for colonoscopy to diagnose colon cancer and other gastrointestinal diseases through a visual diagnosis of the colon. However, there are limitations to the current method as it requires biopsies and follow-up procedures for a clear and final diagnosis. To remedy such disadvantages, Professor Hyeon has succeeded in developing an advanced endoscope that takes less than ten minutes to diagnose cancer.

Professor Hyeon’s new apparatus makes use of bioelectronics and graphene and silver nanoparticles, which are integrated into the endoscope’s camera lens. The lens acts as a diagnostic tool by being placed on suspected cancerous tumors and sends out an electric current; this determines the electrical resistance and ph level of the suspected area. The procured results allow for a simple and immediate diagnosis of cancer. Furthermore, the research team has developed nanoparticle treatment agents administered through an intravenous injection. The agents combine with cancerous tumors and emit fluorescent light, which allows for detection of even the smallest tumors. The therapeutic agents are then activated through the infrared light emitted by the endoscope. The procedure ultimately allows for a faster and efficient method of diagnosis and treatment.

The occurrence rate of colon cancer has been on the rise in South Korea. Doctors and health professionals point towards a westernized diet as the main cause of the disease. Professor Hyeon’s new method allows for an easier diagnosis for colon cancer and provides hope for potential patients to combat the disease at an early stage. The achievement is a culmination of four years of research at the Center for Nanoparticle Research of IBS. Although the procedure is yet in its early development phase and requires more research, the potential benefit of its use in the medical field is promising.

Professor Hyeon is one of the three Distinguished Fellows at Seoul National University and currently serves as the director of the Center for Nanoparticle Research. As part of UNESCO & IUPAC’s Top 100 Chemists of the Decade (2000~2010) list, Professor Hyeon has been widely recognized as a field leading scientist. His latest achievement in the development of an advanced endoscope is an application of his research in nanotechnology.

Written by Yun Hwan Chae, SNU English Editor,
Reviewed by Eli Park Sorensen, SNU Professor of Liberal Studies,