What is nanotechnology? Nanotechnology is the branch of engineering that deals with the manipulation of atoms and molecules that are less than 100 nanometers. The first time I heard of nanotechnology was during an alpha helix meeting at school. After hearing about this, I decided to research this topic more and came across some interesting information about how nanotechnology is used for various reasons, including medicinal purposes.
Because more than 800,000 people die of malaria annually, doctors and scientists wanted to come up with a more effective way to diagnose and treat this disease. They have found that many of the drugs prescribed for malaria, like artemisinins, are starting to become ineffective. They decided to launch a Nanomal project that provides people with a hand-held device which can detect malaria and parasites’ drug resistance. They hope that this device provides more effective drug treatments and saves more lives.
The current method of diagnosing malaria requires a drug sample to be sent to the laboratory for drug resistance analysis. Not only does this take a lot of time, but it also requires specialized and expensive tests to be completed by scientists.
This new device, which is the size and shape of a mobile phone, also analyzes the parasite DNA from a blood sample. The device takes a finger prick of blood and detects the sequence of specific mutations linked to drug resistance, using a nanowire biosensor. The chip electrically detects the DNA sequences and converts them into a binary code, the universal language of computers. The binary code can be analyzed or even shared via various wireless or mobile networks to help scientists monitor disease patters. This device also provides malaria diagnosis and comprehensive screening for drug susceptibility in less than 20 minutes, which is speedier than the current method used for figuring out the diagnosis.
This device provides the same quality of result as a referral laboratory, at a fraction of the time and cost. It could cost as much as a smart phone, but may be issued for free in certain countries where malaria is prevalent. The aim, however, is to reduce this cost and to ensure affordability in resource-limited environments.
I think that this is a grave project that shows just how much technology has progressed and improved. I also think that this type of technology is steering into the right direction. Innovative inventions, longer lives, better future.
For more information on the Nanomal project, click here.