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Engineering better disease detection

Breakthrough Star Chang Liu works in multidisciplinary teams to improve human health care

Chang Liu stands along a wall of windows

Chang Liu entered the field of biomedical engineering as an undergraduate with the long-term goal of improving human health care through engineering solutions. Over the past 15 years, his research has touched on multiple life science disciplines, including biomedical engineering, molecular diagnostics, bio-nanotechnology and proteomics.

Biomarkers and blood. Early in his academic career, Liu worked on several interdisciplinary projects relating to biomarker discovery and the development of nanostructure-enabled, blood-based diagnostic and prognostic approaches for clinical applications. He also developed localized surface plasmon resonance biosensors that use nanoparticles for protein binding kinetics studies.

Diagnosis: tuberculosis. Since its establishment in 2018, Liu’s research group has worked to develop a nanopore biosensing platform for rapid detection of tuberculosis biomarkers in blood samples of infected children. This sensing platform represents a major advancement of TB diagnosis because it bypasses the need of sputum samples in other clinical tests, which causes low detection sensitivity in patients with low sputum bacterial loading, including pediatric, extrapulmonary and HIV co-infected TB patients.

Validation underway. In collaboration with the Desmond Tutu TB Centre at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, Liu’s laboratory is currently testing over 120 pediatric patient samples to validate the group’s tuberculosis biomarker sensing platform.

HIV detection. In collaboration with physicians at Prisma Health and the USC School of Medicine, Liu successfully demonstrated a new technology for early detection of HIV antigen p24 and COVID-19 related antibodies.

Thank you for your support. Liu is supported by NIH to develop a device for HIV patients to test their own finger blood, and his efforts to develop new point-of-care testing technology for infectious diseases is backed by an NSF CAREER award. But he points to the support from the multidisciplinary team in biomedical engineering for his ongoing success.

“My next step is building a multidisciplinary research team with complementary expertise in microfluidic devices, nanofabrication, molecular simulation, machine learning and bioinformatics. All of these areas of expertise are necessary to translate our nanopore sensing technologies into real-world applications and commercialization in the fields of in vitro diagnostics, proteomics and environmental monitoring.”


Breakthrough Stars

The University of South Carolina’s 2023 Breakthrough Stars represent the very best among the ranks of the university’s assistant and associate professors. Their success will help propel the university for years to come.

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