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Little answers to world's biggest problems

Some day soon, in a remote village in the developing world, a health worker will put a drop of a patient's blood on a piece of plastic about the size of a coin. Within minutes, a full diagnostic examination will be complete including the usual battery of "blood work" tests, plus analysis for infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, hormonal imbalances, even cancer.

That remarkable piece of plastic is called a "lab-on-a-chip" and it is one of the revolutionary products and processes currently emerging from nanotechnology research with the potential to transform the lives of billions of the world's most vulnerable inhabitants.

In a new study by researchers at the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics (JCB), published in PLoS Medicine, the open access global health journal, an international panel of 63 experts were asked to rank the nanotechnology applications they think are most likely to benefit developing countries in the areas of water, agriculture, nutrition, health, energy and the environment in the next 10 years. The study is the first ever ranking of nanotechnology applications relative to their impact on development.

The nanotechnology applications that were rated the highest were, in rank order:

1. Energy storage, production, and conversion
2. Agricultural productivity enhancement
3. Water treatment and remediation
4. Disease diagnosis and screening
5. Drug delivery systems
6. Food processing and storage
7. Air pollution and remediation
8. Construction
9. Health monitoring
10. Vector and pest detection and control

The study also relates the impact of nanotechnologies to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. In 2000, all 189 member states of the UN committed to achieve eight goals - which aim to promote human development and encourage social and economic sustainabil
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Contact: Paul Ocampo
pocampo@plos.org
415-624-1224
Public Library of Science
11-Apr-2005


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