A team led by physicist David D. Nolte has pioneered a method of creating analog CDs that can function as inexpensive diagnostic tools for protein detection. Because the concentration of certain proteins in the bloodstream can indicate the onset of many diseases, a cheap and fast method of detecting these biological molecules would be a welcome addition to any doctor's office. But with current technology, blood samples are sent to laboratories for analysis - a procedure that only screens for a few of the thousands of proteins in the blood and also is costly and time-consuming.
"This technology could revolutionize medical testing," said Nolte, who is a professor of physics in Purdue's School of Science. "We have patented the concept of a 'bio-optical CD,' which could be a sensitive and high-speed analog sensor of biomolecules. Technology based on this concept could provide hospitals with a fast, easy way to monitor patient health."
Nolte and some members of his team will be available on Tuesday (May 18) to speak to the media about their work during the Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics (CLEO). Team members include chemistry professor Fred E. Regnier and physics graduate students Manoj Varma and Leilei Peng, all of Purdue.
CDs ordinarily store digital information - such as computer data or music - as billions of tiny "pits" in their surface. These microscopic pits, which represent binary ones or zeroes depending on their size, are etched in concentric tracks circling the midpoint from the inner to the outer edge of a CD.
"It is these pits which we transform into miniature test tubes," Nolte said. "Each pit can hold a trace quantity of a chemical that reacts to a certain protein found in the blood."