Discarded fish eyes are being used by a Kiwi scientist to help early detection of diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Dr Luigi Sasso is undertaking research into the nanotechnology possibilities of proteins in hoki fish eyes at University of Canterbury's Biomolecular Interaction Centre.
Removing the protein from unwanted fish heads using a method developed in the UC lab, Dr Sasso is producing small nano-thin protein structures that can be manipulated and used for research.
The nano-fibres are up to 10,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair.
He said the research was a step toward solving many health issues in society.
"My research is based mainly on utilising biological materials for technology. In today's world, where us humans have abused and oppressed our natural environment for our purposes, I believe it is important to learn how to work together with the world we live in, especially when it comes to technological development," Dr Sasso said.
"The study of biological structures already found in nature can lead us to alternative methods to develop biosensors or other analytical devices from green nano-fibres which can be used to detect sugar levels for diabetics, lactose (for dairy-intolerant people) and downstream indicators of diseases such as cancer.
"How great would it be if you could go down to the pharmacy, pick up a cheap and easy to use device to check your blood for early stages of cancer and then toss it in the recycling bin when you're done? It would allow people to be aware of their health issues way before they reach a dangerous level, meaning that, in the end, more lives would be saved."
Dr Sasso is working with Dr Madhu Vasudevamurthy and Professor Juliet Gerrard, a world leading bionanotechnology expert. The team aims to put New Zealand at the forefront of bionanotechnology research.