We live in a time of medical miracles, not the least of which is the ability to peek inside DNA to sequence the genetic material, unlocking mysteries of disease and how the body operates. This information helps researchers and healthcare workers identify different genetic markers of interest, and other biological molecules. The problem is that you need a sophisticated lab to perform this analysis.
But not anymore. Oxford Nanopore Technologies has created a device that uses nanotechnology to put a complete lab on a single printed circuit board. It also can strip away single strands of DNA, which greatly reduces the preparation required for test samples. They have created the MinION device that connects to a laptop using a USB cable to produce immediate results. This amazing device fits in your hand, and is already commercially available. The big news, however, is that they have shrunk the technology even further to create the SmidgION. While it is still in development, it is a module that attaches to the bottom of a smartphone, and a small, removable cartridge contains the entire lab module.
This new technology means that sophisticated analysis of biological materials can be performed anywhere, any time, with little preparation. The benefits for health and medical applications are enormous, but the device can also be used for a wide range of agricultural and environmental applications. This could be extremely disruptive technology with implications that we have not begun to fully grasp.