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Sources: Christopher Culbertson, 785-532-6685, culbert@k-state.edu;
and Karsten Evans, karstene@k-state.edu
Photo available. Download at http://www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/jul11/711karstenevans.JPG
News release prepared by: Kayela Richard, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Monday, July 11, 2011

K-STATE UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHER WORKS TOWARD CANCER DETECTION

MANHATTAN -- Karsten Evans is ready to take on cancer one cell at a time.

Evans, a senior in biochemistry, Manhattan, became interested in the physical sciences during high school and wanted to pursue research. He joined a research team his sophomore year at K-State and is currently working with a new device he helped create that examines the content of single cells.

"We have created a device that allows us to analyze the cells individually," Evans said. "I plan to become an oncologist, so research with a device that could one day detect cancer is very interesting to me."

Evans' research group is led by Christopher Culbertson, associate professor of chemistry. The group specializes in small volume sampling challenges. Part of this research involves taking measurements of the contents of individual cells.

"The cells are transported in small channels on the device to a point where they are lysed, and then a laser is used to analyze the cell content," Evans said.

Culbertson said that diseases such as cancer begin with a single cell.

"If we can better understand the changes that occur as cancer develops, we can better diagnose and treat it," he said.

Evans said his research has progressed a lot over the past two years. He has examined several hundred individual cells and has helped to develop better methods of moving cells. With the device, he can detect specific components in a cell that show whether it is healthy.

"We can add chemicals to the cell media and see how the cells respond to certain stimulants," Culbertson said. "This will allow us to better understand how cells respond to stresses and other external insults."

In the future, Evans and Culbertson hope that the research device will be used nationally.

"We hope that our tools will someday find themselves in the offices of family physicians, where they can be used as part of routine blood screening for detecting diseases at their earliest stages," Culbertson said. "We also hope to be able to patent our techniques and commercialize them, which will benefit K-State."

The research is currently being supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Evans is a multiple recipient of $1,000 Cancer Research Awards from K-State's Johnson Center for Basic Cancer Research. The awards promote undergraduate participation in laboratory research and encourage students to consider careers in cancer research and medicine. Culbertson is among the more than 70 faculty researchers who are affiliated with the cancer research center.

A K-State honors list student, Evans is the son of Brian and Valerie Evans and a 2008 graduate of Wren High School in Piedmont, S.C.