March 10, 2012
Carbon Nanotubes To Cut Medical Testing Time, Costs

Why wait days and do a return visit to a doctor to get medical test results? Carbon nanotubes will eventually enable medical tests while you are in a doctor's office and for a small fraction of current costs.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have tapped into the extraordinary power of carbon “nanotubes” to increase the speed of biological sensors, a technology that might one day allow a doctor to routinely perform lab tests in minutes, speeding diagnosis and treatment while reducing costs.

The new findings have almost tripled the speed of prototype nano-biosensors, and should find applications not only in medicine but in toxicology, environmental monitoring, new drug development and other fields.

The research was just reported in Lab on a Chip, a professional journal. More refinements are necessary before the systems are ready for commercial production, scientists say, but they hold great potential.

“With these types of sensors, it should be possible to do many medical lab tests in minutes, allowing the doctor to make a diagnosis during a single office visit,” said Ethan Minot, an OSU assistant professor of physics. “Many existing tests take days, cost quite a bit and require trained laboratory technicians.

“This approach should accomplish the same thing with a hand-held sensor, and might cut the cost of an existing $50 lab test to about $1,” he said.

But why the need to interrupt your work day go to the doctor's office and wait in line? As lab-on-a-chip medical testing technology gets cheaper the next step should be medical testing pharmacies equipped with medical testing stations. These test stations could be usable in the evenings and weekends. You could get the idea to test yourself at any time. We really should be able to avoid the need to make an appointment, wait for the appointment, interrupt your work day, go to the doctor, wait, see the doctor, see the receptionist to pay a bill, make a follow-up appointment for results, and all the rest of it.

With pharmacy-based testing the results could get uploaded to a web server for your doctor to look at later. Also, medical diagnostic expert systems could store and process your history of medical test results and could alert you and doctors when a real problem presents.

Beyond pharmacy-based testing the next obvious step is testing in the home or wherever else you happen to be. Plug a medical testing device into your iPad or Android phone and let it poke you for blood to spit into it or provide other kinds of samples. Or have sensors built into your own sink and toilet analyze what comes out of you. Also, air sensors on your bed stand could monitor your gases. Plus, sensors implanted into your body could report to your smart phone or your home computer network.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 March 10 08:52 AM  Biotech Microfluidics

bbartlog said at March 10, 2012 2:04 PM:

Why the need to interrupt your workday? Well, doctors have a lot of student loans that need to be repaid... this will be one more technology that they can act as gatekeepers for with their cartel.
The medical testing devices you envision will also end up heavily regulated by the FDA. In the end though I expect that the walls will break down and you'll be able to order a gray market sensor package from overseas.

PacRim Jim said at March 10, 2012 2:26 PM:

In other words, everyone an immortal hypochondriac.

bmack500 said at March 11, 2012 2:31 AM:

I was thinking that we could have a medical pod in our homes on a middle - class income. Why go to the doc's office at all for the routine check ups? A combination of telemedicine and developments such as this should bring the routing medical testing right into the home.

Phillep Harding said at March 11, 2012 5:29 PM:

Previously, I could call in and arrange for blood work before the Dr appointment. Recent rules changes require "consultation" before blood work and a second appointment after if something shows. I did not think to ask "what rules?". This nano-tube testing is going to be blocked, IMO.

Randall Parker said at March 11, 2012 7:16 PM:


The doctors might slow down this trend some. But they can't stop it.

We will also be able to use medical expert systems running on servers in other countries.

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