Dr Anitha Devadoss works in the Centre for NanoHealth (Systems and Process Engineering Centre) at Swansea University. Her work focuses on developing sensor technology to detect blood-based biomarkers for early cancer detection. She is a Sêr Cymru II Fellow – one of a group of rising stars on a scheme supported by Welsh Government and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, to attract the highest calibre candidates to carry out their own research projects at Welsh Universities. Dr Devadoss’ fellowship is also part of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) COFUND scheme.
Dr Devadoss’ research concentrates specifically on a common biomarker for cancer called glutathione, detected through the (photo)electrochemical sensors she is developing.
The research has the potential to be revolutionary, as she explains: “Ultimately, we want to reduce the time it takes to identify cancer and a range of other conditions to minutes by translating the sensor technology we are developing into a pinprick test.
This simple blood-based deduction will be similar to the diagnosis for diabetes – where a pinprick test gives an immediate indication of blood sugar levels.
Normal cells have certain levels of glutathione, but cancerous cells will have them at elevated levels. As this is very early stage diagnostics, we can’t identity which type of cancer it is yet, but if someone has unusually high levels of glutathione, it is definitely something that needs attention. Elevated levels of glutathione are also related to Alzheimer’s and other conditions, so this is something that should certainly be flagged up with a patient’s GP.”
It is hoped that in as soon as five years, the pinprick test could be available in a GP’s surgery. Dr Devadoss says:. “We are currently trying to adapt our sensors to fit in with industry sensor manufacturing techniques and by the end of my three-year Sêr Cymru project, we are hoping to have a prototype to show how effective our product is. The good news is that at Swansea, we are particularly good at working with industry. We have many partnerships and they represent the best route to market.” Dr Devadoss is working closely with Zimmer and Peacock, Developers and Manufacturers of Electrochemical Sensors; and, within the Centre for Nanohealth, with many other industry leaders.
Dr Devadoss is confident that the sensors she is working on will make a real difference to early cancer detection and a range of other conditions in the future: “I’m especially interested in developing blood-based sensors, but there is a lot of research into biomarkers going on generally. People are looking at exosomes, for example, detectable in saliva and blood, which are good biomarkers for cancer too. This is an upcoming field, so we’re optimistic about a real breakthrough.”