Smartphones contain multiple sensors that could be used for detecting pollutants and collecting health data. By connecting patients’ homes with hospitals, and field locations with testing laboratories and government agencies, they could also enable network-based diagnosis. For example, even if we make it possible to visualize asbestos and other microscopic fibers with a smartphone, determining whether or not a fiber is asbestos is difficult without an experienced analyst (because judgment is based on the aspect ratio and other factors). However, the smartphone itself can be used to connect almost any field site with an experienced asbestos analyst, who can identify asbestos fibers without being at the site. By combining smartphone-based diagnostics with GPS data, we can reduce treatment costs, map disease outbreaks, and contribute to the government’s preventive planning. In addition, it is possible to achieve substantial savings on health insurance costs if correct medication can be prescribed while the patient stays at home. Our center is working to develop cutting-edge biosensing technologies for smartphones in order to contribute to safe and healthy society.
Smart biosensing for safe and dependable society
Japan has seen mass outbreaks of norovirus at schools and nursing care facilities across the country, and such outbreaks have become a large problem for society. When people do not have immunity to new strains of influenza, such strains could spread rapidly and have a severe effect on people’s lives and health. With influenza, it is important to detect the virus and provide appropriate treatment within 48 hours after infection. In addition, detecting agrochemicals in food products, as well as asbestos, particulate matter (PM), and a variety of nanomaterials and other toxic and hazardous substances in the environment around us in order to quickly take action, is an urgent issue as we work to create a safe and dependable society in Japan.
At Hiroshima University, we have successfully developed artificial proteins that bind to a variety of toxic and hazardous substances. By fluorescently labelling such proteins, we have developed technology for specific fluorescent visualization of asbestos, influenza viruses, and other substances several nanometers in size at relatively low magnification. This technology is known as “fluorescent biosensing”, and uses observation of fluorescence to identify substances that are smaller than the diffraction limit of optical microscopy. We have created a fluorescence microscope that can be connected to a smartphone, and are engaged in studies for detecting a variety of toxic and harmful substances.
Smart biosensing for healthy and long-life society
It has been pointed out that growing health care costs are weakening the financial basis of the health insurance system. As nursing care needs grow with the aging population, there is a greater focus on expanding and improving residential and at-home services. To make it possible to remotely collect health data (EKG, brainwaves, body temperature, etc.) and prescribe an appropriate medication, it is necessary to develop biosensors that can both collect and communicate such data.
At Hiroshima University, we have successfully formed a silicon monocrystal on flexible plastic, and are on track to apply this technology to biosensing. We are working to create a chip that contains circuits for temperature sensors and EKG sensors, a communications antenna, and power coil in order to collect and communicate health data via a smartphone by placing the chip against the skin.
We have created the Integrated Research Center for Smart Biosensing in order to help everyone live a healthy and comfortable life, and are working on revolutionary interdisciplinary research to help create a safe, dependable, healthy, and long-life society in Japan.