Next decade health care is starting in today’s labs

Friday, May 18th, 2012 by Roberto Saracco

“Cure” has been the goal of medicine from the very beginning of health care. In the future prevention will take, probably, the upper hand.

Conceptual scheme of molecules detection by the new Purdue sensor

There are many technology evolutions pointing this way, from genomics to sensors. These latter are becoming so sensitive that the very change of a few molecules can be detected and actions promptly initiated.

This is what is telling us the press release from Purdue University on the invention of a new sensors able to detect single molecules.

In simple terms, the researchers at Purdue have created a tiny cantilever with a transistor just beneath it. Both detect a property of the molecule, the cantilever its weight and the transistor its electrical characteristics. By analyzing both of them the sensors acquires a sensitivity that is hundreds of times better than those of existing sensors.

According to researchers, it can be used for personalized medicine by detecting specific proteins, and for early cancer detection. In this latter the sensor is able to detect slightly modified DNA strings that are indicators of cancer.

It is no longer part of science fiction to foresee a future when our bodies will have embedded sensors able to ring a bell if something is looking bad, months before any telltale signs can be noticed at a clinical level. Merge this early awareness with the field of micro-robotics and you can have the signal being received by a micro robot that will take action to deliver a specific drug where it is needed or more simply kill the cell that went astray. We might end up calling this “augmented immune system”!