Theranomics !?

Whilst reading around my subject this morning, filling in a few hours waiting for some colums to run I ran into this video of Prof.  Arben Merkoci Speaking at the Biosensors & Bioelectronics Conference held by Elsevier:

I tried applying for a PhD in Prof. Mekoci’s Lab over in Barcelona, they are doing some really interesting work and, Living in Barcelona would have been excellent.. Oh well funding and lack of MSc aside, The clip touched on something Iv had never heard before.  TheraNostics. Though the video is a couple of years old it is only recently coming to the foreground of the medical field.

Theranostics; Defined as ” a portmanteau of Therapeutics and Diagnostics” promises to be the next stage in the unification of Biosensors, personalised prescriptions and administering therapy on an individual basis which could hail in a new age of designer healthcare where a whole series of factors lead to Bespoke treatment plans.

It has been found that in diseases such as cancers and complex immune disorders there are many interactions between genetic, acquired and environmental factors and by determining these with a range of diagnostics,  treatment can be tailored to patients on a one to one basis. This could boost efficacy whilst also minimising side effects created by the “One size fits all” approach of current medicine.

So far however the capabilities of both the diagnostics and pharmaceutical markets have been limited, preventing this achievement. As new more subtle action drugs are brought to market and the screening capacity of diagnostic systems increases, we can hope that  this may be possible.

This however is not a new concept, the ideas of targeted drug delivery, which broadly achieves the same ends and the notion of tailoring a patients’ prescription needs has been a driving force across fundamental and pharmaceutical research for a while now. The new “shiny, modern” word… theranostics however highlights the fickle nature of research funding.

Over the last few years and still to this day, the popular buzz word Nanotechnology can be put on a grant application in the hope that it might help a professors chances of securing crucial finance. I myself did my undergrad in Nanotechnology (So I can’t complain too much I acknowledge) and I feel that many biosciences and material scientists had the good fortune to be working within the nano realm (10-100nm range) so by putting this on and keeping their work up to date were allowed to continue.

I accept that this  has to be done to ensure sustained research within a particular field and, I agree that it is a necessary evil to play to the “Hot Topic” when looking for funding, but equally I find this doesn’t help public interaction with science. As a Nanotechnologist I find people seem to have the opinion science is about big words and men in white coats  which as much as it may be  true or false, it makes for a very non-inclusive ethos  as seen from the outside.

I know that as scientists we all understand what we mean but maybe we should ask ourselves more generally what does IT mean, our research and why should we be doing it ?

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