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April 24th, 2008

Will nanotech democratize medicine?

Michael Roukes: It's become clear that we can think about biological systems, medical systems, in the same way we think about bits of information flowing through digital computers.

That's research scientist Michael Roukes, who's with the Kavli Nanoscience Institute at Caltech. He's talking about nanotechnology and medicine.

Michael Roukes: I think the most profound - I use this word repeatedly - transformative potential that this technology has is to basically democratize modern medicine.

In other words, nanotech has the potential to instantly diagnose and treat disease. That's key in developing countries where, Roukes said, patients often don't return for lab results and treatment. Meanwhile, in the developed world, nanotech will deliver medicine into the hands of individuals.

Michael Roukes: One can have very, very detailed real-time diagnostics in one's home that will create this ensemble with a genetic predisposition, environmental stressors and current physiological state. And all this information can then be uploaded, if a person wants, to some sort of large-scale Google-like cluster of computers and out of that, various proclivities, current conditions, an understanding of a person's global medical state at that time can be derived. I think this is absolutely inevitable and will happen.


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