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Downsizing Science Offers Huge Potential For NHS

 

Nanotechnology holds the potential to transform healthcare over the next few years. From a robot the size of a blood cell, swimming around in a patient’s bloodstream, detecting biochemical parameters such as blood sugar, so that the treatments used to control abnormal levels can be carefully monitored and adapted for the individual. To toothbrushes with built-in sensors to detect abnormalities in saliva, alerting users to get themselves checked out.


It may sound like science fiction, but the ability to work at the atomic level to change the physical properties of materials to create new structures – nanotechnology – is becoming the new science of healthcare.

The Nanoscience Centre at Cambridge University is one of only a few in Europe investigating the potential of nanotechnology, not just in the NHS but in the wider commercial world.

Mark Welland, professor of nanotechnology at the centre, says: “Nanotechnology will have a significant impact on health and on all our lives. Our role is to look at projects where an interdisciplinary approach can be most effective. One of our projects is looking at some of the aspects of disease processes in Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes, with the idea of applying nanotechnology to identify some important fundamental properties of structures formed as these diseases progress. This will give us an insight into how the disease progresses and, perhaps ultimately, the pathology in the body.”

One of the greatest potentials of nanotechnology is the development of sophisticated diagnostic tools, another area being examined at Cambridge.

Mark says: “One aim is to provide diagnosis which is fast, extremely sensitive and uses just a small amount of tissue or sample. Therefore, we want to make devices that can identify processes at a single molecule level – in a drop of blood, a puff of breath. Early diagnosis leading to early treatment must be one of its (nanotechnology) applications.”

The British Government is keen to harness such new healthcare technologies in the NHS and has created a structure enabling greater co-operation between the health and social care sectors and industry. The Healthcare Industries Task Force (HITF) outlined its plans in November 2004, including a modernised device evaluation service (DES) and a new innovation centre, which will help accelerate the adoption of innovative medical technologies for the benefit of patients.

From April 2005, the DES will develop into a new service managed by the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (PASA) to inform purchasing decisions better. In addition, healthcare technology co-operatives will be piloted as academic centres of excellence, pioneering specialist treatments and techniques.

The overall aim is to ensure that technologies and innovations, which are proven and worth investing in, are available to the whole NHS rather than just pockets of the service.

Source: PrimaryCare, an Edition of NHSMagazine


NHS Information Authority 11th March 2005


This story has been adapted from a news release -
Diese Meldung basiert auf einer Pressemitteilung -
Deze tekst is gebaseerd op een nieuwsbericht -


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