This story is from the category Sensors
Date posted: 20/07/2012
When Tony Turner started studying the arcane area of biosensors 30 years ago, the market for those devices was worth only $5 million a year and he used to see one research paper on the subject every two years.
Now a professor at Linkoping University in Sweden running a department dedicated to bioelectronics, Turner says a study he led at Cranfield University in Britain found the devices now generate annual sales of $13 billion and spawned 6,000 research papers last year.
Biosensors use biological material combined with an often portable detector to diagnose disease or pick up pollutants in the environment.
Companies have been quick to exploit the potential of a technology that can detect and track diseases from diabetes to cancer, but demographic changes and economics suggest this market could balloon in years to come.
As governments around the world struggle with healthcare costs and ageing populations, the benefits of technology that can keep patients out of expensive hospital beds and off costly drugs are a big attraction.
Healthcare agencies are increasingly decentralizing complex diagnosis and treatment, to local doctors' offices and even into the home, which helps contain the institutional costs of big centers like hospitals.
And capitalism's tendency to push towards the consumer is encouraging more people to buy health monitoring equipment directly. Only a decade ago, the average consumer would not have had such easy access to a cheap home blood pressure monitor or an electronic in-ear thermometer, for instance.
As medicine becomes personalized, tailored much more to an individual's lifestyle, genetics and responsiveness to treatment, improved monitoring and detection will be key.
"So far we have had a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to medicine," Turner told Reuters. "We have treated rather than kept well."
He is working on sensors that could improve care for the elderly by being woven into clothes or implanted in the body, able to beam data to a remote recorder to pick up any biological changes that need medical attention.
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