Detecting cancer earlier than ever

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Ghidewon Arefe is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, studying ways to target cancer with nanotechnology.
Arefe and Kortshagen

Finding breast cancer early can mean the difference between life and death, not to mention fewer dangerous surgeries and painful treatments. And nanotechnology may provide a "magic bullet."

Arefe works with Uwe Kortshagen to create quantum dots-tiny crystals of atoms that glow different colors under UV light. If Arefe can get them to attach to cancer cells, he might be able to see the cancer cells glowing.

Glowing quantum dots
Arefe examines flasks of quantum dots glowing in UV light.

Unfortunately, most quantum dots can't be used in the body because they're made with elements like cadmium and selenium-both poisonous to humans. So Kortshagen has pioneered a new method to easily create quantum dots out of silicon, which aren't poisonous. Arefe still has to get them to find the cancer, though.

Ghidewon Arefe's work is funded by the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) through the NSF. The IGERT helps to develop the next generation of nano scientists.