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'Supermaterial' Graphene Could Change Medicine

December 30, 2015  |  Newsworks

Graphene, a thin layer of tighly packed pure cabon atoms, is often talked about as a "supermaterial" that is poised to change the way we live.  

 

From the simple convenience of charging your electronic gadgets in seconds to the development of faster internet networks and more efficient water filtration systems, the list of its potential uses are endless. 

 

But a lot of these future possibilities hinge on the ability to produce graphene at a high enough quality to be applied to the kinds of lofty aspirations mentioned above. 

 

Victoria Tsai is the Senior Vice President of Business Development and Tech R&D at Graphene Frontiers, a company based in Philadelphia. The company is currently in the midst of both aiding in the development of high quality graphene and also pioneering its use as a medical diagnostic tool.

 

"One of the things we are doing at Graphene Frontiers is scaling up graphene production," said Tsai from the company's lab on Market street. We thought we'd give Tsai the chance to the sit down with Charmel Sippio, a marketing and communications specialist, to talk about her important work with the company.

 

Tsai is particularly interested in personalized medicine and the intersection of biometrics and fitness tracking. She mentioned devices made by Fitbit and Garmin and other companies that track and monitor personal health. She thinks Graphene Frontiers can develop the technology to assist these devices to do more than just track your heart rate, and the number of steps you take in a day.

 

The company's success hinges on their development of graphene biosensors that Tsai says will change healthcare and the healthcare technology industry.

 

"More and more, there is an interest in personalized medicine and the quantified self and we believe that the development of these sensors will have wide applications in healthcare and at home."

 

Tsai wants to position the highly efficient sensors as a 'platform technology' that can be tailored to the needs of healthcare professionals as well as everyday consumers.

 

It would create a world where we can work with physicians and ask" 'what type of molecules are you looking for—what are the most common types that you are screening for when a person presents with certain symptoms and, that way, they can quickly see which biomolecules are abnormal."

 

If any of that seems a little familiar, there's a reason—at least if you're a fan of science fiction. The future of medicine is rife with references to instant diagnoses and cool medical devices that magically detect ailments and diseases. Graphene technology is what could, one day, make this fantasy a reality.