Microscopic probes to make detection of diseases fast, accurate

In a few years, diagnostic centres will have a super-tool for quick and accurate diagnosis of a range of diseases using microscopic probes called nanomachines. 

Published: 10th February 2018 10:49 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th February 2018 09:57 AM   |  A+A-

Image for representational purpose only.

BENGALURU : In a few years, diagnostic centres will have a super-tool for quick and accurate diagnosis of a range of diseases using microscopic probes called nanomachines. These will be injected into the bloodstream to help in diagnosing. These nanomachines, measuring about 500 nanometres (1 nm = 1 billionth of a metre) in length, will measure changes in blood viscosity to detect diseases at an early stage. These tiny probes can be used in fluids up to 70-100 times more viscous than water. Biological fluids, like blood, are eight times more viscous than water.

Researchers say, for now, nanomachines have the potential to diagnose cardiovascular diseases  and sickle cell anaemia with accuracy in quick time.Four researchers from Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) collaborated with two Israeli counterparts to develop the process to detect diseases at no higher diagnostic costs.Blood and body fluid viscosity are known to uniquely predict disorders, and are an early predictor of cardiovascular diseases. Feasibility studies have been successfully completed in-vitro (in lab conditions) on human cells and in animals. 

The research was published in the January 2018 edition of the journal Advanced Functional Materials.Lead researcher Dr Arijit Ghosh, formerly from the Department of Electrical Communications Engineering, IISc, who is now Post-doctoral Fellow, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, the US, said “Our lab (in IISc) previously demonstrated that these nanomachines can be utilised to navigate inside human blood. The research extends the capabilities of the nanomachines to potentially detect abnormalities in blood using mechanical sensing.”

 “The nanomachines can be used for in-situ measurements of blood viscosity for which they will be injected into the bloodstream."The nanomachines can be navigated externally using magnetic fields to any specific location in the blood vessel. If the fluid inside the blood vessel has got thicker, it will be picked up by the nanomachines. This can detect blood clots or blood vessel obstructions caused by cardiovascular diseases at an early stage. 

“(But) Translation to patients, however, needs solution to a few technological problems like imaging inside the body, biodegradability etc. Thus, the technology of nanomachines needs time for development and will probably be ready for human trials in 8-10 years,” Ghosh said.The other researchers are Prof Ambarish Ghosh (guide), Debayan Dasgupta and Malay Pal (all from Indian Institute of Science’s Centre for Nano Science and Engineering); and Dr KI Morozov and Prof. AM Leshansky, from Department of Chemical Engineering Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel.

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