At Singularity University, my team of 5 founded Mitera: an at-home health monitoring service. Using cutting edge research in salivary diagnostics by Professor David Wong at UCLA, we developed a prototype for a nanosensor that could help diagnose systemic diseases in saliva.
Saliva contains thousands of biomarkers of disease, in the form of microRNA. Wong’s lab is beginning to uncover combinations of microRNA that when present in the saliva indicate the presence of a number of systemic diseases. So far he has identified markers for pancreatic, gastric, breast and lung cancer, among others. But the concentrations of these markers are very small. At his lab at UCLA he is currently developing a prototype for a point-of-care diagnostic device, using a polymer based sensor. Our project sought to bring is research directly into the home. We decided to use carbon nanotubes, functionalised with biological probes, sensitive enough to detect 1 actomole concentrations. We ran a full quantum mechanical simulation of the nanosensor, and developed a mechanism to make it reusable. The device would sit beside the bathroom sink, and once a week a light would appear indicating it was time to test. A simple lick of a finger, wiped across the nanosensor would provide sufficient saliva to run the test. The results would be sent to the cloud to a team of dedicated medical professionals, who would only be needed for review when a result was abnormal. The customer would simply see a green light, indicating all was well, or a red light, indicating they needed to seek professional advice.
By testing on a weekly basis, for combinations of hundreds of biomarkers, we can start to build a new model of the human body. We would reduce the false positives normally seen with traditional one-shot screening programmes, by increasing the reliability through regular tests.
The hardest challenge faced would be consumer-facing marketing: customers and patients are unlikely to engage with a ‘cancer diagnosing device’ on a regular basis. The negative implications are too great. The product would be launched as a health monitoring device that catches illness before it takes hold and allows the doctor to get a better picture of their patient’s body.