Carbon exists naturally in two very different forms: the graphite common to pencil lead, and the rather more beautiful, extremely durable diamond. While carbon atoms are common to all organic molecules including sugars, fats, proteins and DNA, in pure (atomic) form as diamond, their beauty is crystal clear. Being the hardest substance known to man, diamonds are not only popular in the jewellery trade; they also make terrific drill bits. And now researchers are discovering that diamond holds promise for biomedicine too. Being lightweight and conductive, it can mimic natural materials in the body. Increasing amounts of research are being carried out to assess its suitability for medical application. Scientists are already exploring its use as a biosensor by growing diamonds in the lab, and seeding their surfaces with molecules that help detect cancer-promoting factors in the body. Nano-diamonds are opening up new avenues for biomedical diagnostics.
Written by Brona McVittie
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.