Impacting healthcare with micro- and nanotechnology
In healthcare, fundamental research in micro- and nanotechnology and the needs voiced by medical professionals are coming together in life-changing ways. Emerging nanotechnology-based solutions will enable doctors or nurses to screen individuals for diseases, such as cancer, using just a minimal amount of body fluids: a tiny drop of blood from the fingertip, a speck of saliva, a urine or faeces sample.
These newly emerging technologies are set to change healthcare in general and diagnostics in particular. For example:
- Doctors will be able to diagnose diseases at an earlier stage
- Diagnoses will be more reliable and less expensive
- Patients will have less pain and inconvenience
Bio markers and biosensors
At MESA+ we are working closely with medical experts to identify so-called ‘bio markers’ for selected diseases – and to develop ever smaller (bio-)sensors for analyzing them. Bio markers are minute tell-tale signs of the presence of a disease that might be found in body fluids. For some diseases these bio markers have already been established, for others they are will being researched.
Innovating biosensor production technology
In developing ever smaller (bio-)sensors for analysing bio markers in body fluids, it has become evident that conventional manufacturing methods have almost reached their limits. At MESA+, therefore, we believe future early diagnostics applications will rely on innovative biosensor production technologies – as well as a deeper understanding of their detection principles. Our researchers are among the world’s pioneers in this field.
Project P: a cutting edge example
At MESA+ we are currently at the stage of performing clinical studies to validate a method of detecting bladder cancer with urine samples. Dubbed ‘Project P’, this study is one of the first real illustrations of how nanotechnology may turn diagnostics upside down. The method uses minute biosensors to identify a set of markers revealing the presence of bladder cancer in urine samples. In conventional diagnostics, bladder cancer testing involves the (periodic) insertion of a tube in the patient’s urethra, while the results will be visible within about two hours. The use of a urine sample means less discomfort for the patient as well as earlier and quicker diagnoses. It is also less labour-intensive and cheaper than the conventional method.