Smart Petri Dishes

I recall reading a few years ago in the Economist an article that claimed that the distance between valleys of the Kondratiev long wave cycles were getting shorter. It didn’t really say why, and I can’t find the piece. But I did wonder if improvements in the “speed” and costs of research could be a reason, since the cycles have to be rooted in the dynamics of innovation–assuming that the long wave paradigm is explanatorily useful in the first place. I wonder when I come across pieces like this.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed what they call a “Smart Petri Dish” that could be used to rapidly screen new drugs for toxic interactions or identify cells in the early stages of cancer circulating through a patient’s blood.

Their invention, described in the June 20 issue of Langmuir, a physical chemistry journal published by the American Chemical Society, uses porous silicon crystals filled with polystyrene to detect subtle changes in the sizes and shapes of the cells.

“One of the big concerns with any potential new drug is its toxicity,” says Michael Sailor, a professor of chemistry at biochemistry at UCSD who headed the research team…

In addition, says Michael Schwartz, a postdoctoral scholar in Sailor’s laboratory and the first author of the paper: “The potential of our technique for fundamental studies of cell toxicity is exciting, Since we can monitor cells in real time without removing them from their natural environment, the observed changes provide a time course for performing more detailed tests to find out why drugs are toxic.”