Science and technology are two words that are the essence of existence today. Life without technology is nearly unimaginable. The adverse impacts of science are evident but putting brakes on technology seems like too big a price to pay to put a halt to these negative externalities. Technological advancements in the current scenario have made living a luxury for those who can afford it. Scientific temperament and approach in every field has made our job easier and safer. Among the many wonders of science, nanotechnology is the most recent and powerful watch word with immense promise.
Nanotechnology is the study of control of matter at the atomic and molecular level, dealing with structures of the order of 100 nanometres. In a recent breakthrough researchers in US used nanoparticles to ‘smell’ the scent of illness in the fluids of the human body. They used gold nanoparticles with different coatings to differentiate various proteins and detect related diseases.
The ‘nose- principle’ which states that the human nose has various receptors which react differently to different compounds was used to detect proteins. The receptors do not respond to a particular smell but it is a generalised response of the receptors that creates smell. Vince Rotello of the University of Massachusetts along with other scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology used a system of six receptors to create the ‘nano-nose’. Proteins can be differentiated by their characteristic property of attaching themselves to specific receptors. The aim of the experiment was to identify the properties of binding for various proteins. A molecule beaming a fluorescent signal was used for this purpose. The molecule was attached to the receptor particles and then it was replaced by protein molecule when the latter bound to the receptor. This way, the more the fluorescent molecule was displaced, the more light produced. Subsequently the results were analysed by computer.
The ‘nano-nose’ recorded a high accuracy level with 96 correct responses out of 100 tests. The ‘nano-nose’ could prove to be extremely useful in identifying protein specific diseases by smelling the various proteins and also identifying the anomalies in the required protein balance of the human body. Changes in serum were successfully identified after numerous tests on the blood of sick and healthy animals. Scientists are of the opinion that with a little more research and subsequent advancement, the ‘nano-nose’ could well be used for cancer identification and treatment.
The implication and impact of nanotechnology is a debatable issue with concerns regarding the impact of nano-particles on the environment and toxicity levels. Other concerns include the development of untraceable weapons of mass destruction and networked cameras. Use of nano particles at an industrial level could lead to severe health and toxicity issues. Thus regulation of nanotechnology is important for gainful development. Scientists may feel that any form of regulation may stifle scientific temper but our environment and human health need to be in good shape to make full use of friendly technology.
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