Down by the sandy beaches of Catalonia, Spain, a team of researchers at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Castelldefels has successfully developed a nano-chip capable of detecting cancer at its earliest stages. Though only a few square centimeters, this nano-chip is so sensitive that it can detect cancer protein markers from only a drop of blood!
Like a power strip or circuit board, the nano-chip contains sensing sites that connect to a “network of fluidic micro-channels,” which can perform multiple tests from one sample. As chemically programed particles on the nano’s surface attract protein markers, any cancer markers present in the blood sample will attach to nano-particles in the channels as they flow through. The nano-chip monitors all of the changes in the concentration of protein markers to provide an assessment of a patient’s risk of cancer.
Technology like this extends medicine’s potential in treating patients who may not have access to proper medical facilities. Early detection provided by this nano-chip will be available to people in even the most remote places of the world where transportation and/or funding is limited. The nano-chip may prove to be a more economical and powerful tool to prevent and treat this deadly disease.
However, this cancer-detecting nano-chip isn’t the only innovation in portable medicine. Speakers from last month’s TEDMED series hosted in London’s Royal Albert Hall discussed a few of the current and promising practices of mobile medicine.
Leo Cheng, a Maxillofacial Surgeon, spoke of his experience on one of the largest hospital ships in the world, Africa Mercy. This ship is one of a few that visits developing nations to provide care that may otherwise be unavailable to poorer populations. Established since 1978, the Mercy Ships is one of the earlier examples of portable medicine.
Ali Parsa, a healthcare entrepreneur, has been developing another form of portable healthcare that is more applicable to people of this technological age. Parsa and his partners have created an app known as Babylon Partners that essentially puts one’s General Practitioner (GP) in their pocket. Babylon allows one to have a virtual consultation from their phone, get a referral, and even have prescriptions sent to the closest pharmacy. Though this app is shaped for UK citizens, it is another step forward in making healthcare globally accessible.
Mobile and portable medicine is a necessary and growing part of healthcare in the 21st century. Variations in people’s health needs call upon a more personalized, accessible, and progressive kind of healthcare that is starting to take swing. Say hello to the new wave of medicine!