Researchers at Southampton University are exploring the use of nanotechnology to develop disposable and low-cost blood-testing kits for use in GPs’ surgeries.
The project has received £1,330,346 in funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will be led by Professor Peter Ashburn, head of the Nano Research Group at the university’s School of Electronics and Computer Science.
Focusing on a method for fabricating nanowires similar to that commonly used in computer displays, the team hope to develop a fabrication method to mass-produce low-cost blood-testing kits that can be used by GPs' surgeries rather than being sent off for laboratory testing.
Professor Ashburn said: ‘Standard clinical laboratory tests have limitations outside the laboratory, which can reduce the diagnostic impact of new protein biomarkers for complex conditions like cancer and chronic inflammation.
'One-dimensional nanostructures such as nanowires are ideal for diagnosis, as they can be integrated into microfluidic chips that provide a complete sensor system.’
The work will be carried out over a three-year period and will include an impact assessment of the sociological aspects involved in the take-up of nanotechnology in healthcare.
Professor Susan Halford, at the university’s School of Social Sciences, said: ‘We need to understand how this new mechanism for blood testing sits in relation to established organisational forms, professional knowledge and inter-professional relations.
‘In particular, replacing hospital lab tests with GP-administered tests requires a whole series of subtle and highly politicised changes to the organisation of healthcare.
'While the technology holds enormous potential, if it is to deliver the socially beneficial innovation so highly prioritised in public consultation, we need to develop in-depth understanding of how it can actually come into use.’