Swarnagowri Vaidyanathan, a third year graduate student in Prof. Steven Soper’s group at the University of Kansas, will participate in the Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka, Kansas at the State Capitol Building on Wednesday, February 26, 2020.
A native of Chennai, India, Swarna received her undergraduate degree in Bio-Pharmaceutical Technology from Anna University in Chennai. She joined the University of Kansas (KU) Bioengineering program in the spring of 2017 as a graduate student pursuing a PhD. Her first class at KU was Biomedical Microdevices, taught by Prof. Steven Soper, which sparked her interest in joining the Soper research group. As a member of the Soper research group, Swarna has had opportunity to work on a variety of projects such as “Detecting abasic sites in DNA to evaluate the efficacy of chemotherapy;” “On chip immunophenotyping and FISH of biological cells;” and “Nanosensor: device for cancer detection,” among others. Working on these impactful projects has given her the opportunity to affect people’s lives directly.
Currently, Swarna and other researchers in the Center of BioModular Multiscale Systems for Precision Medicine (CBM2) are aiming to develop a simple device that can detect cancer from patients using a simple blood test. The isolated blood has DNA that has abnormalities called mutations, which are indicative of a specific cancer. The researchers will perform both the sample processing and detecting mutations using their simple device. The blood sample of a patient enters a pillar region on the device where a solid-phase ligase detection reaction (spLDR) takes place. This reaction forms two different products: one product of one length that has cancer mutation and another product of a different length and does not contain the mutation. After the sample goes through the spLDR pillar region of the device, there are nanochannels containing two nanopores which will detect changes in current when the products are driven electrokinetically. As the product enters into the first nanopore, there is a drop in current as there is a blockage happening at the nanopore. Subsequently, as the products move to the second nanopore, there is another drop in current. The currents generated at both nanopores are similar, and there is a relay between signals. Based on the time of flight and length of the products, different cancers and their mutations can be detected. This device is completely made of thermoplastics that are inexpensive ($1 per device, plus sample processing), and hence the cost of diagnosis is dropped by 90% from conventional diagnostic tests for cancer. This makes the diagnosis method accessible to people of all economic statuses. Since this device works on detecting mutations, individual patient samples can be diagnosed, enabling precision medicine. Cancer can be detected in a painless, noninvasive, and inexpensive manner, in as little as 2 hours.
Swarna is one of eight graduate students from all disciplines representing the University of Kansas Lawrence Campus at the 17th Annual Capitol Graduate Research Summit at the State Capitol Building in Topeka, Kansas on February 26, 2020. Her poster title for the event is “Development of a Nanofluidic Device for Detecting Cancer.”
Other participating Kansas institutions include Kansas State University, The University of Kansas Medical Center, Pittsburg State University, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, and Wichita State University. The participating students will present their research posters to legislators and other members of state government. Two students per university will receive an award sponsored by the participating institutions and BioKansas.