Medical sensors represent a fast-growing global market estimated to be worth $1.2 billion in 2020 and expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 6.8% from 2020 to 2025. Sensor technology developments are spurred by increasing demand for early disease diagnosis, the expanding scope of clinical applications and advancements in diagnostic imaging modalities.
Nanosensors form the core of a new approach to lung cancer diagnosis in a noninvasive test that could reduce the number of false positives and help detect more tumors in the early stages of the disease. Peptide-coated nanosensors, which can be inhaled or injected, interact with proteases, enzymes which enable cancer cells to travel through the body and metastasize. As the engineered nanoparticles accumulate at a tumor site, the peptides are degraded by protease in a mechanism that releases biomarkers detectable in a urine sample.
Drone technology can form the basis of a diagnostic system that broadens the scope of clinical applications and also provides for early diagnostics. In an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, the University of South Australia has teamed up with Draganfly Inc to develop pandemic drones which will use temperature sensors and computer vision to identify symptoms of infectious respiratory diseases. These airborne medical monitors will be capable of remotely sensing temperature, heart and respiratory rate as well as detecting coughing and sneezing at a distance of up to 10 m. Crowded areas such as airports and healthcare facilities can be monitored to provide researchers an accurate idea of how widespread a virus is.
A new X-ray detector prototype promises to benefit medical imaging with reducing radiation exposure and also boosting resolution in security scanners and research applications. The detector replaces silicon-based technology with a structure built around a thin film of perovskite, improving sensitivity a hundredfold. The perovskite detector does not require an outside power source to produce electrical signals in response to X-rays, and the thin-layer detectors should prove simpler and less costly to manufacture relative to silicon-based detectors.
The ability to accurately quantify a person’s stress level advances with the development of a wireless sweat sensor. The device precisely detects levels of cortisol, a natural compound considered the body's stress hormone. The graphene-based sensor is fabricated by laser etching a plastic sheet to form a 3D graphene structure with tiny pores in which sweat can be analyzed. The pores cover a large surface area, making the device sufficiently sensitive to detect compounds present in very small amounts in sweat. These structures are coupled with a cortisol-sensitive antibody for accurate monitoring of the compound. Unlike blood tests conducted to determine cortisol levels, monitoring with the sensor is noninvasive and results are returned in minutes.
Nanotechnology was recently combined with 3D printing in the synthesis of a durable, flexible sensor to power wearable electronics that monitor vital signs, athletic performance and other activities and variables. Porous silicone sensors are surface doped with graphene nanoplatelets, resulting in a stable coating with long-term electrical resistance durability and resistance against harsh conditions. The biocompatible conductors are ideal for inclusion in wearable device that conform to different surfaces.
The role of sensors in medical device design is expanding with increasing adoption of remote monitoring systems, mobile cardiac telemetry devices and other wireless monitoring capabilities in clinical as well as non-hospital settings. Technology developments will continue to focus on miniaturization, low power consumption, high functionality and affordability as hallmarks of sensors engineered for biomedical use.