Fast, cheap and reliable diagnosis of diabetes, Helicobacter pylori, tumour markers, viruses, bacteria – sounds promising, doesn’t it... The team of Assoc. Prof. Georgi Dyankov from the Institute of Optical Materials and Technologies (IOMT) at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) is just a step away from such a development. How big will this step be? As a scientific achievement, it will put an end to invasive testing of certain diseases and “in the dark” treatment by the trial-and-error method. It will be a revolutionary new patient-friendly approach, but, at the same time, it will be a tool for timely and effective treatment. How long would it take for the step be taken depends not on the scientists, but on the interest in implementing the development and on providing funding to bring it to market.
A specific recognising substance, reacting in the presence of the desired molecules, is applied on the so-called biochip, which is actually a nanostructured gold surface. The detection method is so sensitive that these molecules can be identified in minimal concentrations, including in the saliva of the patient. The interaction is optically recorded in order to obtain information on the presence of “bad” substances, a tumour marker, a virus or a bacterium. It immediately determines the condition, as well as the cause of the disease, which allows for fast diagnosis.
“Medicine has registered strong progress after accepting the assumption that diseases are the result of ‘incorrect’ intermolecular interactions. This promotes the need for detailed study. Biochips help determine if and how the interaction between certain molecules occurs,” explains Assoc. Prof. Dyankov.
The primary goal of the scientists at IOMT is to bring the development to practical use. Firstly, their focus is on the non-invasive monitoring of diabetes, affecting around 800 million people worldwide, as well as the diagnosis of Helicobacter pylori. The development of the innovative non-invasive diagnosis is making progress, but the leak in the ship is the lack of funding, with which to bring the innovation to commercial use.
“Successful treatment is based on fast, reliable and affordable diagnosis, and the saliva examination method clearly has an advantage. But funding is the gap that prevents the developed tool from appearing on the market,” explains Prof. Nikola Malinovski, DSc, Deputy Director of IOMT. This unique technology will allow the treating physician to determine the most effective treatment. Thus, a radical approach to a number of diseases will be applied, while the developed technology will be kind of a breakthrough in personal medicine.
The scientists at IOMT continue their work. The cost of each technology created by them is inevitably paid with the lack of staff and motivated young people. The other dimension of “cost” is that without adequate state and local business involvement, there is a risk that everyone else around the world could benefit from the development and commercialise it at their own profit. Thus, Bulgaria can again lose the know-how of a valuable scientific discovery with applicable nature.
Is it worth the price?