Where the Cell/Molecule meets the Byte….

By Dee McGonigle PhD, RN, FACCE

Citation: McGonigle, D (October, 2005). Editorial: Where the cell/molecule meets the byte….. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 9, (3) [Online]. Available at http://ojni.org/9_3/dee.htm

We are living in an era of unprecedented discoveries and advancements. The technological explosion is miraculous and humbling. Scientists have shrunk laboratories from rooms in a hospital to the size of a credit card that can examine a single cell. Then there is the mind boggling expansion of our computational capabilities while the instrumentation fueling these advancements continues to shrink. Nanotechnology is becoming a reality. This huge reduction in size must be appreciated. One nanometer is equal to one millionth of a millimeter.

The cell, as we know, is the smallest unit of life in our bodies. The molecule, the smallest particle, could be known as the smallest functional unit in our computers thanks to Dr. Bartels’ research. Dr. Bartels and his research team have created a molecule that can simulate human walking. It is called the nano-walker. This molecule is spectacular not only in its ability to simulate human walking but in the fact that it can move in a straight line on a flat surface. The molecule, DTA (9,10-dithioanthracene) has two feet called linkers. DTA’s energy source is heat. The nano-walking results from the alternating motion of the linkers; one linker always remains in contact with the surface and this guides the motion, keeping the molecule on course. Since the molecule can walk in a straight line there is no need for nano-rails or nano-grooves. This is what had stymied previous researchers. DTA provides a simpler way of creating molecular memory, put into perspective, it would be 1000 times more compact than our current devices.

Is your mind racing – what are the implications for nursing informatics? With this type of storage, how small will the laptops and PDAs become – when we say portable, do we mean our name tag, a ring we wear or a wrist band that has voice capabilities to eliminate key boarding and a projection system that can project the information we are looking for onto a piece of white paper or a wall for group viewing. Think about patient care, as Dr. Yensen points out, it could allow for an entire electronic medical record stored on an ID badge or medical swipe card. You could have an artificial intelligence system built into your name badge so that when you were stumped or needed more information, you could query the expert nurse database. Ohhhh – the possibilities!

Just think what the future holds….

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