Bay Ridge biology professor leads medical breakthrough

Could a biology expert from Bay Ridge have found the cure for cancer? Well, not yet, but Vasily Kolchenko, an associate professor of biological sciences at New York City College of Technology is a key member of a research team that made a significant breakthrough in the lab, according to college officials. 

The research finding has the potential to be a significant breakthrough in the treatment of cancer, AIDS, and other deadly diseases, college officials said.

The work done by Kolchenko and his fellow team members have made it possible, for the first time, to detect the smallest virus particle. That’s significant, according to college officials, who said that since even one viral particle can represent a deadly threat, the research likely will make an important contribution to ongoing research on early detection of diseases like cancer and AIDS.

Until the research team announced their discovery this year in Applied Physics Letters, a publication of the American Institute of Physics, no instrument or methodology had been successful in reliably detecting a single virus particle, which is in the size range of a nanoparticle. For perspective, consider this: about 80,000 nanoparticles side by side would have the same width as a human hair.

While scientists have long used microscopes to view objects as small as bacteria, viruses are much smaller than bacteria. Even the most sensitive electron microscopes, which are cumbersome, expensive and difficult to operate, cannot guarantee detection of viruses.

The team’s breakthrough involved adding a nano-antenna to the light-sensing device to enhance the signal. “The idea that light can ‘sense’ the presence of nanoparticles and respond to their arrival was groundbreaking,” Dr. Kolchenko said.

“Since all the deadliest viruses and most interesting biological molecules -- proteins and DNA-- belong to the nano world, our research proved truly innovative, and its promise is almost unlimited in terms of detecting pretty much everything of interest in life sciences,” he adds.

Dr. Kolchenko has a medical degree, a doctorate in physiology and a master’s degree in mathematics from Kiev University.

“One of the ultimate goals is to develop portable, inexpensive, easy to use and highly sensitive devices for healthcare and research settings,” Dr. Kolchenko said. “This research opens the door for highly sensitive detection and measurement of biological and other nanoparticles that are essential in molecular biology, clinical medicine and diagnostics, epidemiology, ecology,

nanotechnology and other fields.”

Further research is planned, according to Dr. Kolchenko. “Since single protein molecules are much smaller than viral particles, their detection will be the ultimate test of the method,” he says. “We hope after some additional research and development, our method will allow for single protein detection as well.”

Such research could enable earlier screenings for cancer markers, which are protein molecules produced when cancer grows.

“We have merely scratched the surface of what is likely to be possible,” Dr. Kolchenko said.

Dr. Kolchenko was born and raised in Kiev. He moved to the U.S. in 1994 and has lived in Bay Ridge for several years. In addition to his expertise in science, he is a musician. A guitarist, he has performed at several Brooklyn venues, including Brooklyn Public Library branches in Gravesend, Homecrest and Brighton Beach.

The New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York is the largest public college of technology in New York State. Located at 300 Jay Street, the college has an enrollment of more than 16,000 students.