Hand-Held Diagnosis

House No SpeakResearchers at Harvard have developed a hand-held device capable of detecting anything, anywhere. The device’s primary application will be diagnosis of disease. It borrows technology used in MRI machines, known as NMR, or Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. In an MRI, NMR generates images by exposing the atomic nuclei in your body to magnetic fields and then bombarding them with radio waves, causing a telltale wobble in the atom detected by a current induced in special coils. The new device, instead of generating an image with this data, simply detects if the molecules are present. It does this by taking a small blood sample and carrying it through detector coils. Each coil is filled with a few magnetic nanoparticles bonded to special detector nanoparticles.

Large NMR machines have been around for awhile but have had limited application due to their low sensitivity. The new hand-held NMR device is 800 times more sensitive than its large progenitors, allowing it to detect very minute signs of affliction.

The Harvard scientist in charge of the project, Dr. Weissleder, has already filed for a patent and set up a new corporation, T2 Biosystems, in order to market the new device. Word from T2’s CEO is that the device will “hit shelves” 2 years from now. (source)


A local commentator (Lone) brings up a good point, “Not only is this REALLY cool, but this is one of the most helpful systems I have even seen. However, wouldn’t this put some med students out of the job, sorta? I mean the only reason to have a doctor after this point is to get a prescription for whatever it is you might have…”

My take:

Technically, yes, this could theoretically do away with some diagnosis work, but doctors are still extremely important in compiling a final diagnosis and course of treatment. The practice of self-diagnosis using the internet is an indicator of what could happen. Some people may be better educated, but many others will often do significant damage to themselves or bombard their doctor with useless and often fraudulent research.

At this point, it is very easy to diagnose a broken bone, but would you attempt to set and pin it together on your own? (yes, Lone, I know you would, but I am addressing normal people).