Invention spotlight: biomedical sensors using nanoparticles

August 21, 2012

Commercialization, Technology

Giant magnetoresistance (GMR) has captivated physicists and engineers since its discovery in the 1980s, which earned a Nobel Prize in 2007. The discovery was first applied to increasing the storage on hard disk drives, as seen in smaller and more powerful MP3 players. But GMR technology also holds promise for the development of medical sensors.

Invented by Jian-Ping Wang, an electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, a new biomedical sensor technique could detect biologically active agents such as drugs, proteins and cells in the human body. This technique incorporates a GMR sensor and magnetic nanoparticles to distinguish nanoparticles with different magnetic properties.

The technology is low-cost and portable, with a higher signal-to-noise ratio when compared to fluorescence technologies. In addition, the magnetic coloring technique offers observation of the reactions between proteins and cell membranes, as well as a high-throughput method to sort molecules and cells. The magnetic signal it uses could penetrate human tissue with negligible side effects.

Wang developed the sensor with co-inventor Yuanpeng Li. This patented technology is currently undergoing proof of concept testing and the Office for Technology Commercialization is actively seeking a commercialization partner.

Learn more

Contact Kevin Anderson ( or 612.624.8293), technology marketing manager, for licensing information.

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