lineup of portable bio sensors

[Image above] Credit: NanoTube – The National Nanotechnology Initiative; YouTube

While politicians in Washington continue to argue about how to bring down the cost of health care, one student from the University of North Carolina is actually doing something about it.

Taylor Mabe, a graduate student in the university’s Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, recently collaborated with film student Jenna Schad to create a short video about his research on a handheld device that uses nanotechnology to diagnose diseases.

His video was a recent winner in the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) Nano Film Contest—a competition that encourages people to talk about nanotechnology.

Mabe’s video suggests that typical diagnostic tools, such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, can cost in the $100,000 range and are slow to deliver results. His solution is a portable, inexpensive glass and metal film biosensor that is patterned with nanostructures that are 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.

The addition of protein-specific detection molecules (antibodies) functionalizes the sensor’s surfaces, which act like “beacons to capture the protein of the molecule of interest in our sample, which is usually blood.”

According to the video, most established analytical techniques require expensive lasers, fancy optics, and refrigeration of samples. The nanostructures in Mabe’s model only require a light bulb and camera—and—you guessed it—no refrigeration!

The device can diagnose specific diseases just by changing the detection module, Mabe says in the video. He suggests multiple end uses, such as “soldiers in the field, disease screening for patients at home, or bedside analysis for patients in remote regions of the world.”

hand holding a bio sensor

 Credit: NanoTube – The National Nanotechnology Initiative; YouTube

Although Mabe’s portable diagnostic device has no official name as of yet, it offers multiple benefits:

  • No need to ship samples to a lab
  • Immediate disease diagnosis, providing instant results
  • Less costly
  • Less sample required
  • Portability—fits in the palm of your hand
  • No need to refrigerate samples
  • Less waste generated
  • Can be used anywhere in the world, in any temperature extreme

Watch the video below to see Mabe’s process. Who knows—perhaps Mabe’s device will become as ubiquitous to doctors as the smartphone is to the rest of us!

 Credit: NanoTube – The National Nanotechnology Initiative; YouTube