Monday, February 18, 2019

Bangladeshi physicists say they invented new cancer detection tool using lasers

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2018-09-05 19:39:32 BdST


A group of physicists at the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology in eastern Bangladesh claims to have invented a new method that can give a “cheaper and quick” diagnostic solution for cancer.

So far, it was not certified by any international authority such as the World Health Organisation, nor was it published in any journal.

But the researchers said they have advanced their effort to get the patent in the United States, which means it has a solid scientific base.

Dr Yasmeen Haque, a professor of physics who led the research, said at a press briefing in Dhaka on Wednesday, that they tested the method on both patients and healthy individuals’ blood samples, and publications will come out soon.

She explained that they used nonlinear optics to detect cancer early in the body.

In this method, they pass a high laser beam or intense light through the blood samples, serum, and observe the change. In normal condition, there will be no changes in the sample.

“It’ll take few seconds to see the changes and 10 to 20 minutes to get the results,” said Dr Manash Kanti Biswas, a member of the research team.

He hoped that they will be able to present the prototype of the device next year so that the industry can come forward and produce this.

“All the technologies related to this research and the device are developed by our team. They even developed a sample holder at the cost of Tk 500 which we used to import at the cost of Tk 27,000,” Prof Haque said.


It is not clear how much people will benefit from the tool as there are existing cheaper methods of detecting cancer in Bangladesh.

But this innovation raised the level of studying fundamental physics in Bangladeshi universities where laboratory research is mostly neglected.

Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid who was present at the press briefing said this would open a new era in cancer detection in Bangladesh.

Dr Farida Arjuman, a histopathologist, and associate professor at the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital, who was in the audience, said this is just an addition to the existing tools of cancer detection at the primary level.

“This is not a confirmatory test and we’ll have to do further tests for confirmation as we do now,” she said, adding that early detection through the usual methods such as FNAC is as cheaper as Tk 150 now in the government hospitals.

Prof Sharif Md Sharaf Uddin, a project associate, said one of the advantages of this method is its “sensitivity” which is “very high”.

“Maybe [one day] we will be able to detect cancer at the primary level,” he said, adding that nonlinear optics can be used for many other purposes.

The research was funded by the ‘Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project’ of the University Grants Commission. Its chairman Prof Abdul Mannan was also present.

“With this innovation, we can say Bangladesh is now ready for research and has the right ingredients to become knowledge based country,” Prof Haque said.

“We now have a very strong nonlinear optics group and they are ready to take any challenge.”

She said this is also “unique as we have done everything on our own. Whatever needed for their research, they developed in the laboratory.”

Nonlinear optics deals with the fundamental studies of the interaction of matter with intense light. After the discovery of lasers when intense light sources became available, this field also flourished.

With this research, the university has developed a ‘nonlinear optics’ team and has now a nonlinear optics research laboratory which is providing opportunities for the physicists to conduct sensitive optical experiments.

Prof Haque said they have already appointed experts and lawyers in the United States to get the patent. “They evaluated everything and we are expecting that this will be patented soon.”

The education minister said the research shows the results of the government’s emphasis on funding research at the university level.