This may look like a panel of snowflakes, but in fact they’re microscopic electrodes built using nanotechnology from a mixture of chromium and gold. And what’s more, these tiny electrodes are changing the way doctors diagnose and treat disease. Such electrodes can be used to detect changes in electrical current caused by specific proteins, molecules and even bacteria associated with disease. For example, the electrodes shown were each combined with probes that recognized DNA sequences unique to particular bacterial species. A change in the current detected by one specific electrode thus revealed the bacterial species present in a sample. Pinpointing which bacterial species is causing an infection is important for selecting an appropriate antibiotic, but is not always easy. Nanoelectrode arrays could make this and other clinical tests far simpler thanks to the ability to test multiple probes at once, and the instant readout of results.
Written by Ruth Williams
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.