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Cheap and easy cancer diagnosis on the horizon for Bangladesh

  • Published at 02:05 pm July 3rd, 2021
Fatema Zerin Farhana
Fatema Zerin Farhana, a PhD student from Buet’s chemistry department Dhaka Tribune

With this new type of inorganic enzyme, it is possible to identify the various biomarkers responsible for cancer at an early stage very quickly and at an affordable cost, thus improving the chances of formulating a cure for patients

A doctoral student at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) recently made substantial progress in developing a quick and inexpensive method of diagnosing cancer at its earliest stages.

Fatema Zerin Farhana, a PhD student from Buet’s chemistry department, conducted research to this end in collaboration with Australia’s Griffith University, developing a process of creating inorganic enzymes based on iron oxides with functional groups by applying the concept of green chemistry. 

With this new type of inorganic enzyme, it is possible to identify the various biomarkers responsible for cancer at an early stage very quickly and at an affordable cost, thus improving the chances of formulating a cure for patients, her study concluded.

The results of her research were published in the Analyst, the Royal Society of Chemistry Journal and in the ACS Applied Nano Materials, the Journal of the American Chemical Society, in May this year.

According to the study, cancer kills a big number of individuals every year all across the world, including Bangladesh and Australia. And only by appropriately diagnosing cancer at an early stage will this number of deaths be reduced.

The research underscores the idea that this new class of inorganic enzymes will play an effective role in creating a simple and accurate method or device for the early detection of cancer at low cost, which will especially be effective in treating the expensive disease in a developing country like Bangladesh.

The main purpose of Farhana’s study was to make a simple and accurate method of diagnosing various diseases at low cost through using knowledge of chemistry, especially nano-chemistry.

Diagnostic centres usually use natural enzyme-based (ELISA) methods or devices to diagnose a variety of human diseases, including cancer, which are expensive and time-consuming. Moreover, the process of preserving natural enzymes is also very complex. 

However, Farhana has demonstrated that an inorganic enzyme functions similarly to a natural enzyme in catalytic reactions. Its preservation method is straightforward, and it can accurately identify and measure a variety of cancer biomarkers.

Farhana’s earlier works primarily focused on creating various nanoparticles, organic and inorganic compounds. Later, she became involved in diagnosing expensive diseases like cancer by collaborating with Siddiqui Research Lab in 2018.

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Farhana said these inorganic enzymes could be utilized not only to identify cancer but also any disease in the human body.

Furthermore, this novel form of inorganic enzyme can be employed for early detection of plant diseases in various crops such as rice, wheat and sugarcane, in addition to diseases of the human body, she added.

One of the supervisors of Farhana’s research team, Dr Shiddiky, said: “This new class of inorganic enzymes acts like natural enzymes in catalytic reactions. After attaching the necessary functional groups they can be identified with different biomolecules. These special classes of enzymes also have magnetic properties. Using these multifaceted factors, biomarkers of various diseases, including cancer present in human blood, urine or saliva, can be easily diagnosed.”

Professor Firoz, the research supervisor, thanked Dr Shiddiky and his research team for their cooperation in this work and emphasized creating a multidisciplinary collaborative research culture in the country.

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