Though the term “nanomedicine” is more often associated with drug delivery, nanotechnology also has enormous potential to make ex vivo diagnostics more sensitive and more applicable at the point of care. CNME research in this area encompasses both the development of novel nanomaterials and nanoscale components to improve sensor sensitivity and the design of devices incorporating commercially available nanoparticles. A highly innovative example of nanomaterials developed by CNME investigators are the porous silicon materials developed in Michael Sailor’s lab, which enable spectral barcoding of multiple analytes. These materials allow detection at very low concentrations in small volumes of sample and can be adapted to detect nearly any biomolecule. Similarly, work by the Yu-Hwa Lo lab improving photodetectors for long wavelengths should enhance the sensitivity of DNA sequencers and biosensors that rely on fluorescence.
Others within CNME translate existing nanomaterials into small devices to allow rapid biochemical analysis. For example, the Joseph Wang lab has used carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in their wearable electrochemical tattoo sensors that allow real-time monitoring of exercise performance; CNTs’ high electrical conductivity, chemical stability, and mechanical strength contributed to the sensitivity and durability of these sensors. Nanoparticles are also key components in many of the microchip devices designed by Michael Heller’s group, who have introduced electric field-based methods of organizing layers of nanoparticles, accelerating the construction of chips incorporating biologically active components while maintaining high specificity.