Star Wars Medicine?

11-08-2017 8:07 AM

The Mary Kay Foundation Cancer Research Grants at Work

Each year, The Mary Kay Foundation funds research for cancers affecting women. There are several medical breakthroughs that we have been part of thanks to nearly $27 million donated since 1996.

UCLA researchers have found a way to use hologram technology that could make it easier and less expensive to diagnose chronic diseases.

While tissue biopsies are considered the gold standard for detecting diseases like cancer and inflammatory conditions, they require complex and expensive equipment.

Researchers, led by Professor Aydogan Ozcan, UCLA’s Chancellor’s Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering, have found a process that could bring biopsies to remote areas without access to expensive lab equipment.

What makes the hologram method so different?

  • Researchers use a lens-free microscope made of simple optical hardware that cost just a few hundred dollars. The traditional microscope used for biopsies cost more than $50,000.

  • Traditional biopsies require expensive fluorescent dyes. Instead, UCLA researchers used colored, light-absorbing dyes.

  • The UCLA method allowed researchers to use thicker tissue samples. Therefore, they can study a larger sample volume, which could help them detect abnormalities earlier.

  • Researchers place the tissue on a small silicone chip — the same type that’s found in your mobile phone camera. When light shines on the chip, shadows form holograms of the tissue samples.

  • Researchers then see a 3-D image and can digitally view different cross-sections of the tissue.

Want to read all the technical details? You can read about them in the original UCLA press release.

Professor Ozcan received a 2016 grant from The Mary Kay Foundation. His original research plan was to find a way to create a portable and inexpensive pap smear.

Looks like it ended up being much more!

For more information on the Mary Kay Foundation’s cancer grant program, please visit

*This information was sourced from the UCLA newsroom.

Stacy Graves is a contributing editor of The Mary Kay Foundation℠ blog and website. She’s worked in some type of communication role for Mary Kay since 1994 — loving every minute. She’s passionate about everything Mary Kay. You can connect with her by email (, her website or LinkedIn.