Editorial Feature

Harnessing the Power of Graphene for Health Monitoring

Graphene has many extraordinary properties, including excellent electrical and thermal conductivity, as well as remarkable mechanical flexibility. This superior 2D material holds significant potential in many applications, such as developing wearable sensors and implantable devices in health monitoring.

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Introduction

With the advancement of biomedical research, the identification of biomarkers for the assessment of health risks, prognostics and response to treatments, has become an innovative strategy for modern medicine.

Biomarkers can be associated with a large range of conditions, while some can be linked to only one. An example of a well-known biomarker found in various conditions includes acetone, which can be used as a biomarker for a minimum of 11 different pathologies, ranging from sleep apnoea to malaria, asthma and some cancers.

Graphene-based sensors have been explored for their diverse applications and versatility, as well as their results in the identification and quantification of particular molecules.

Interestingly, graphene has become a popular material in many fields due to being the lightest, thinnest and strongest material at an atomic level. The reactivity and excitability of this superior material enable it to be ideal for use in different types of sensors, including optical fiber, chemical, physical, electrochemical and wearable sensors.

Research into Graphene-based Sensors

Graphene-based sensors have gained popularity for the detection, identification and quantification of molecules for medical purposes, including for diagnosis of diseases through organic-borne biomarkers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 500,000 deaths that have been concluded as being the direct cause of asthma, while chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been reported as being involved in 3 million global deaths every year.

With these diseases having a significant impact on patients who live a poor quality of life, their lives are dependent on fast and effective diagnoses and treatments. However, current methods of diagnosis can be time-consuming, invasive and expensive for patients, leading to the requirement of innovative alternatives that would be welcomed by large populations that suffer from medical negligence and overall obstacles.

Asthma and COPD

A study published in 2017 included research on the development of graphene oxide-based sensors that studied a specific marker for inflammatory processes of the respiratory tract. The researchers tested these sensors in two scenarios, exposing the sensors first to standard nitrile solutions prepared in various concentrations and then testing with samples of exhaled air condensate.

The results showed successful detection of nitrite in both the standard and exhaled air samples, with a follow-up study also validating the results and demonstrating the use of the graphene-based sensor identifying biomarkers for diagnostic applications for inflammatory disorders associated with the respiratory tract.

This is significant for both asthma and COPD, which have many compounds that are linked to its diagnosis, and can be detected in exhaled air. Translating graphene-based sensors for monitoring any of the established markers, such as acetone or propanol for asthma or benzene and benzaldehyde for COPD, may be revolutionary for these populations and for reducing the global disease burden.

Female doctor holding virtual Lungs in hand. Handrawn human organ, copy space on right side, raw photo colors.

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Another researcher has also developed a graphene-based sensor for a well-known biomarker for asthma in 2021. This research includes the development of sensors with the capacity to identify propanol at room temperature through scattering thin layers of a particular nanocomposite.

The research results found the graphene-based sensor to successfully detect and quantify propanol, further signifying the validity of graphene-based sensors for assessing biomarkers in the breath.

Diabetes

Diabetes is considered to be the most researched health disease for the identification of biomarkers in exhaled air using graphene-based sensors.

Many researchers have developed graphene-based sensors for detecting various analytes in the breath of diabetic patients, including a 2022 study that involved the detection of acetone using a revolutionary microwave-assisted chemical reduction technique to create a nanostructure with a keen ability to detect acetone.

Other researchers have aimed to detect three specific analytes, including acetone, methanol and ethanol, using quantum resistive gas sensors prepared through scattering thin layers of graphene.

With diabetes becoming more prevalent in low- and middle-income countries, the global disease burden of this health disorder, which can cause blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and amputations, requires rapid diagnosis to avoid severe health consequences.

Additionally, with constant monitoring of blood glucose levels through point-of-care devices, the potential of graphene-based sensors may be revolutionary for this critical health disorder, especially for the older population that may not be as mobile for regular check-ups with a healthcare provider.

Future Perspectives

The potential of graphene-based sensors may be revolutionary for many diseases due to the number of established biomarkers that researchers are attempting to target for diagnostic and prognostic purposes.

Graphene-based sensors can be used for monitoring health, with backed scientific research that has proven accurate detection and quantification of target analytes in samples for a range of conditions, including asthma, COPD and diabetes, to name a few.

Graphene-based sensors have also shown promising results for cancer, including gastric cancer, which may advance the conventional diagnostic approach involving a gastric endoscopy with a biopsy and histopathological analysis.

Such invasive procedures can cause extreme discomfort for patients and research into less invasive methods with high efficacy through graphene-based sensors may innovate and remove the need for painful diagnostic and prognostic procedures in medicine.

See More: Chemical and Biosensor Chips

References and Further Reading

Diabetes. World Health Organization. Accessed December 10, 2023. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes.

Huang, H., et al. (2019)​​​​Graphene-based sensors for human health monitoring. Frontiers in Chemistry, 7. doi.org/10.3389/fchem.2019.00399

Moura, P.C., et al. (2023). The state of the art on graphene-based sensors for human health monitoring through breath biomarkers. Sensors, 23(22), p. 9271. doi.org/10.3390/s23229271

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Marzia Khan

Written by

Marzia Khan

Marzia Khan is a lover of scientific research and innovation. She immerses herself in literature and novel therapeutics which she does through her position on the Royal Free Ethical Review Board. Marzia has a MSc in Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine as well as a BSc in Biomedical Sciences. She is currently working in the NHS and is engaging in a scientific innovation program.

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