With more than 20 years of research and development of nanotechnology in the U.S. and around the world, the varied benefits of this remarkable technology continue to present themselves, from better cancer treatments to improved materials and applications to even potentially invisibility.
Though known for their microscopic size, Minnesota-based Ancon Medical Inc. has developed nanotechnology that can make certain particles appear bigger and easier to detect, as its Nanoparticle Biomarker Tagging (NBT) technology has the promise to revolutionize the sensitivity with which medical providers can detect diseases and other conditions.
Using nanotechnology, Ancon Medical’s NBT technology can detect the presence of a wide array of diseases just by testing an individual’s breath for “biomarker” molecules that serve as a chemical fingerprint for the disease.
“Detecting individual molecules is extremely challenging, but doing so opens a whole world of medical screening possibilities” said Ancon Medical President Wesley Baker. “For more than a decade, researchers at Ancon Medical have been working with nanotechnology in order to make NBT technology the most sensitive breath screening disease detection technology available.”
Nanotechnology made the goal of single molecule discovery possible for researchers at Ancon Medical, who were working in aerosol science to find a method of breath screening for disease detection, Baker said.
At first, Ancon Medical researchers were focused on technology that allowed nanoparticles to be enlarged through means of nucleation and condensation so they could be detected with visual equipment such as photomultipliers. In the 1990s, Ancon Medical researchers were successful in their ability to detect a single molecule of Sulfuric acid using this technology. However, this nucleation-condensation detection technology based on aerosol science was effective for only certain chemicals, giving the technology limited overall practical application.
“We needed to find a way to take what we had discovered in aerosol technology and apply it more broadly. Then, nanotechnology came along and gave us the breakthrough we needed,” Baker said.
In 2002, researchers expanded on their discoveries by working on ways to enlarge a molecule to make it easily detectable. Advances in nanotechnology made it possible to “tag” molecules with nanoparticles that would increase the molecule’s size to that of the tagging nanoparticle. Thus, it became possible for Ancon Medical researchers to detect any molecule, regardless of its chemical nature.
This breakthrough eliminated the chemical limitations of existing molecular detection methods and paved the way for the creation of Ancon Medical’s NBT technology, which utilizes both aerosol science and nanotechnology to be able to detect individual molecules in an individual’s exhaled breath.
“If a nanoparticle can be detected, then any molecule that is tagged with that nanoparticle can also be detected,” Baker said. “Because NBT technology isn’t limited to by a molecule’s chemical nature, it can be used to detect any molecule or ion, giving it practically unlimited market potential.”
Already, the remarkable potential for NBT technology is being discovered. With numerous biomarkers, medical providers can use an Ancon Medical NBT device to screen for lung cancer, tuberculosis and a host of other diseases. With additional research, the biomarkers for diseases like Ebola could also be discovered and detected with an NBT device that would be a powerful tool in the fight against one of the world’s most dangerous and infectious disease.
Ancon Medical is a member of LifeScience Alley, a biomedical trade association based in Minnesota.