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Infectious (those caused by virus, parasites, and bacteria) or genetic diseases (those caused by abnormalities in the DNA) can be detected using specialized tests known as bioassays. One of the most promising areas of research and development on nanotechnology deals with the design, manufacturing, and marketing of bioassays to detect and diagnose infectious or complex genetic diseases.
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How Bioassays Work?
Basically, bioassays will detect a biomolecule that is produced if a patient has a specific disease. These biomolecules will act as “markers" of the disease and will warn the medical professional about the possibility that the disease is already present or may develop in the near future.
Depending on the nature of the disease the molecule to be targeted by the bioassay may be a protein or the DNA or RNA. The bioassays will be designed so as to selectively detect the intended target biomolecule.
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How Nanotechnology Has Helped Develop Better Bioassays?
Since nanotechnology is an area of knowledge that deal with very small tiny particle it has helped significantly to develop better bioassays. Usually, a nanoparticle present in the test will selectively bind to the biomolecule and make it “visible", that is, detectable. Using recent development in nanotechnology the bioassays have the following advantages:
- New nano bioassays have become more sensitive. They are able to detect diseases or potential “markers" of disease at lower levels of concentration of the biomolecule.
- The new assays with nano particles are easy to perform. No need to long analytical tests with long periods of lab analysis
- New diseases are been able to be detected with new nanobioassays.
- Multiple disease-detecting nano particles can be assembled in one bioassay so as to reduce the number of bioassays to be performed in each patient.
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Bioassays and Quantum Dots
Quantum dots are specific nano particles designed from semiconductor materials. These quantum dots particles can be easily assembled in a bioassay. Quantum dots of different materials (each detecting a specific biomolecule) can be arranged on a bioassay plate so as to have a “multiple disease-detecting bioassay". For example, we could design a bioassay plate that would be able to detect all known gene mutations (there are hundreds) for the cystic fibrosis disease. Each quantum dot (made of a different material) could detect one gene mutation. Then, by inspecting the bioassay plate we could determine easily what are the mutations present in that patient. The detection could be as simple as observing the bioassay plate under a microscope and to see which quantum dots has changed in color.
Nanotechnology is significantly changing the way healthcare is dealing with complex diseases. We are bound to see many more applications of nanotechnology as it relates to bioassays to detect complex diseases.