A portable, hand-held biosensor capable of detecting a wide range of medically important chemical compounds has been created by a team of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) of La Jolla, California and the University of California, San Diego.
The biosensor, which changes colors to signal the presence of specific molecules, may represent a new type of practical and affordable device for a variety of medical applications. Potential uses range from the screening of chemicals for drugs to diagnosing illness at the bedside without having to send samples to the lab.
The work, "A Porous Silicon-Based Optical Interferometric Biosensor," was published in today's issue of the journal Science.
According to M. Reza Ghadiri, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, TSRI, and study co-author, "It is exciting to be able to adapt such inexpensive and readily available material for use in this new technology. We are hopeful that we will see commercial applications within two to five years."
"One can envision something like a Star Trek medical ?tricorder' that a nurse might bring to the bedside of a patient," said Michael Sailor, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSD, and co-author of the study.
For non-trekkies, a medical tricorder is a hand-held device that performs all the duties of a clinical laboratory, capable of sampling, analyzing, reporting and otherwise diagnosing a patient's ailments.
"In the original television show, Dr. McCoy would point the device at a patient and it would take a sample and read out all his problems," Sailor explained. "Our device was inspired by that image--a small, sensitive diagnostic unit that is very easy to use."