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BIOSENSOR: HOPE OR REALITY FOR MEDICAL CARE IN THE NEAR FUTURE

By : Prof. Dr. Nor Azah Yusof

Email : azahy@upm.edu.my

Imagine a visit to the doctor’s office will be completely changed. For a routine check-up, you only need to be at home, talking to the ‘doctor’ that will probably be a robotic software program that appears on your wall screen and that can correctly diagnose up to 98 percent of all common ailments. Your ‘doctor’ may look like a person, but will actually be an animated programme to ask a series of structured questions and directions of ‘do it your-self’ testing.

Many hate going to the doctor. But in the future, your health will be silently and effortlessly monitored several times a day without your being aware of it. Your toilet and clothes probably will have DNA chips or DNA based biosensors with millions of tiny sensors that can detect the presence of the DNA of many diseases. If you blow the mirror in the bathroom, it can probably tell you the possibility of getting cancer by evaluating the biomarker in your breath or even genetic abnormality. The mirror can probably even alert you, even when the cancer colonies of only a few hundred cells are growing in your body. Imagine the word cancer can be wiped out from our dictionary simply by asking “Mirror, mirror on the wall” in the morning and manage to get early treatment at the slightest indication of cancer.

Contact lenses which come in contact with tears will probably diagnose diseases or can simply alert you on your sugar levels (probably the alert can appear in your smartphone). The microRNA in tears contain biomarkers that is indicative of many possibilities. Imagine the possibility of underwear made of smart fabric can warn you on your medical condition simply by analysing your sweat. The concept of wearable biosensor has long been discussed by researchers and working prototypes are available.

Imagine if you can just swallow a pill with the size of aspirin, fully equipped with sensors that can diagnose the ‘inside’ condition and the information can be transferred wirelessly to a nearby receiver. Definitely, this will reduce the necessity of cutting skin for surgery and can detect cancer for example without ever performing colonoscopy. The word theranostic or targeted drug delivery can be materialized and will certainly improve the treatment quality of cancer patients.

While the early focus in using Internet of Things (IoT) to network people has been on wearables such as fitness bands, a trend known as ‘Internet of Me’ or ‘Internet of You’ can probably be the next stage, with those devices placed inside our bodies.

Growth in the field of biosensors research has been phenomenal. Unfortunately, despite the vast number of papers published, the field of biosensor maybe viewed as our hope in the future rather than possibility in the near future. Given the huge potential that biosensors can provide in reshaping the human destiny and our daily lives, it is wise for stake holders to invest money on this research.

This article is written by Prof. Dr. Nor Azah Yusof who has 15 years of experience in doing research in biosensors.

Updated:: 03/05/2017 [marzieana]

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