Nanotechnology refers to tech with dimensions less than 100 nanometers (1/10,000,000th of a meter). Nanotechnology is often used to manipulate atoms and molecules. In medical applications, the very tiny tech is often designed to react with diseased cells for diagnostic or treatment purposes. We’ve written about multiple nanotech developments with digital health, such as nanotube-coasted smart textiles that detect human motion and nanofiber wound dressings that promote healing and tissue regrowth.

A multidisciplinary research team at the National University of Singapore (NUS) developed a nanotech point-of-care diagnostic device. The enVision (enzyme-assisted nanocomplexes for visual identification of nucleic acids) platform can test multiple samples of one disease or a wide range of diseases at the same time. EnVision could be used to detect emerging infectious diseases such as Zika and Ebola, high-prevalence infections such as hepatitis, dengue, and malaria, various types of cancers, and even genetic disorders. According to the researchers, enVision is a multi-use tool that is two to four times faster and 100 times lower in cost than current tests; it could cost less than $1 per test. The NUS team claims that the enVision platform can work at room temperature without special heaters or pumps, and that is extremely sensitive and accurate.The enVision platform uses tiny plastic chips preloaded with molecular DNA material. Three key steps take place in detection: target recognition, signal enhancement, and visual detection. A smartphone app displays test results. The researchers used the human papillomavirus (PPV) to validate enVision’s performance in a study published in Nature Communications.

The NUS team’s current work includes developing a sample preparation module for DNA extraction and treatment. The group also wants to build the smartphone app with enhanced image correction and analysis algorithms suitable for real-world applications. Nano-anything is tiny, but the implications of interacting directly with cells and molecules to detect infections of diverse types, especially with mobile, light, fast, accurate, and inexpensive technology has opposite-scale, huge positive implications.