Tag Archives: diagnostic tools

Dipstick Technology

Dipstick Technology Allows for Fast Disease Detection Without Sophisticated Equipment

Scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia (UQ) have developed a simple and effective method for diagnosing diseases in living organisms, which has implications for use on isolated regions where advanced technology has not yet populated. Dubbed ‘dipstick technology,’ the process can purify and analyze ribonucleic acid (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) from microorganic samples in less than a minute—without the need for special equipment or personnel requiring a particular skill set.

Pathogens can consist of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that may trigger diseases in plants, animals, and humans. Being capable of analyzing biologic samples quickly will make devising of treatment plans easier and faster, which can prove enormously beneficial when time is critical.

 The dipstick has already been used on isolated plantations in Papua New Guinea with great success, allowing for the exposure of pathogens in trees, humans, livestock, and water sources for drinking. Even in low-tech settings, disease can quickly be isolated and evaluated, allowing for time to develop a useful solution.

The findings on the field encourages researchers to believe that it might be especially effective in underdeveloped nations where health equipment and facilities are in short supply. In such locations, dipstick technology has the potential to tackle agricultural problems, health issues, and environmental disasters that plague nations and communities.

The UQ team of scientists maintain that nucleic acid purification is a powerful tool in molecular biology but too cumbersome to use for most field operations, as the process is time-consuming and requires the expertise of trained and specialized workers. Extracting genetic material from biological samples has always been done in a laboratory setting and usually involves complex machinery and time to process the information.

The researchers had a breakthrough when they discovered a proprietary medium that could capture and isolate nucleic acids while preventing the degradation of the genetic sample during the process of washing away contaminants. Dipstick technology was born, which passed preliminary testing on a narrow range of biological samples only to discover later that a much broader range of samples could also be captured and analyzed effectively.

UniQuest, the commercial arm of UQ, has filed a patent for their dipstick technology, but they are also seeking commercial partners who are willing to finance large-scale production for the purpose of distributing the tech to less developed countries. Regardless of the logistics of who uses the dipstick, its application and role in modern medicine is tantamount to advancing the science of medicine.

Diagnosing Hepatitis C

Urine Test for Diagnosing Hepatitis C

Diagnosing hepatitis C can be made simpler with an easy urine test instead of the conventional and costlier two-step approach with a blood test that is currently utilized. Scientists at University of California Irvine School of Medicine have developed a test that uses enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)—a common diagnostic tool when using wet lab samples—to detect hepatitis C antigens indicative of a current infection.

With the traditional blood test, the first step involves detecting anti-hepatitis C antibodies. A positive result, however, does not indicate an active infection as these antibodies will be present if a person was exposed to the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the past and the immune system fought off the pathogen. A positive test is followed by a HCV RNA test to detect viral RNA in the blood to determine an active infection. Genotyping may also be ordered to discern the most effective treatment and predict the expected length of therapy.

Urine from 110 people and blood from 138 people was collected. The results were compared using the two approaches, in which the urine test matched the blood test results completely. The new method not only increases sensitivity and specificity, it is also less expensive as the HCV RNA test can cost up to $200. In less developed nations where skilled phlebotomists and blood-processing equipment are not readily available, a simple urine test for diagnosing hepatitis C may be a lifesaver.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne pathogen and is acquired through blood and bodily fluids, i.e. passed from infected mother to child, sharing of needles, engaged in unprotected sex, received organ transplants before 1992 and blood transfusions before 1987. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 130-150 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis C, of which 2.7 million are Americans. During the early stages, a person infected with HCV is asymptomatic and usually goes undetected until complications develop later, which includes cirrhosis and liver failure. Diagnosing hepatitis C effectively and efficiently can staunch transmission rates and prevent future generations from unknowingly acquiring the disease.

Urine Odor for Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

Using Urine Odor for Prostate Cancer Diagnosis Noninvasively

A device known as Odoreader can accurately detect signs of prostate cancer by essentially “sniffing out” urine. Scientists at University of Liverpool in conjunction with University of the West of England in Bristol originally developed Odoreader in 2013 to analyze urine samples for bladder cancer by examining odors in the specimen. Researchers claim 100 percent were accurately diagnosed with bladder cancer in 98 urine samples using this method. Now, this technique is being adapted to noninvasively diagnose prostate cancer.

Current prostate cancer screenings include measuring prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in men through a blood test, which are not specific to prostate cancer. Elevated PSA levels can also indicate prostatitis (inflamed prostate) or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as an enlarged prostate. PSA levels above 4.0 ng/mL are considered high and a prostate biopsy is usually performed to confirm cancer diagnosis. Over time, scientists have found PSA measurements revealed too many false-positives, as well as false-negatives, to be used as a reliable screening method, not to mention unnecessary prostate biopsies were performed as a result.

Odoreader is a machine that uses gas chromatography to analyze odors emitted in urine. A mix of heated tin and zin oxide is used as a detector in the column (in the gas chromatography oven) and heats the liquid urine sample into a gas. As the gas moves along the 98-feet column, adsorption rate varies by molecules found in the sample, which is used to identify cancer cells by comparing the readings to an algorithm. Results are displayed on a computer screen within 30 minutes.

Urine samples from 155 men were analyzed using Odoreader and diagnosed 58 men with prostate cancer, 24 men with bladder cancer, and 73 men as having a weak stream with hematuria (blood in urine) without cancer. Accuracy rate of diagnosing prostate cancer was 90 percent and over 95 percent for bladder cancer, compared to PSA screenings which amount to 65-75 percent accuracy.

If Odoreader passes clinical trials, using urine odor for cancer diagnosis will be hot on the heels of urologists and save several men from undergoing needless painful prostate biopsies.

ELISA-on-a-Chip

‘Lab-on-a-Chip’ Graduated to ‘ELISA-on-a-Chip’ with the Help of Engineers

Team of engineers and scientists at Rutgers University have developed ‘lab-on-a-chip’ technology to potentially replace expensive conventional benchtop assay laboratory tests—hence, ‘ELISA-on-a-chip’—to aid in diagnosing and treating a wide array of medical conditions, including HIV, Lyme disease, and syphilis.

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is a common “wet-laboratory” technique that uses large amounts of bodily fluids to analyze proteins (antigens or antibodies) to determine its concentration. Apart from requiring a relatively large volume of blood sample, the ELISA method utilizes expensive chemicals and skilled technicians who have to mix the fluids and chemicals by hand, making any diagnostic test run by the technique laborious and costly.

ELISA-on-a-chip uses microfluidics technology that allows the device to use 90 percent less body fluid sample as well as one-tenth the volume of chemicals used to analyze the sample than its traditional counterpart, without compromising the accuracy and sensitivity of the results. One ‘lab-on-a-chip’ can simultaneously analyze 32 samples and measure widely varying concentrations of up to six proteins in a sample.

Apart from cutting costs (chemicals used in a standard multiplex immunoassay runs approximately $1500), animal research that halted due to lack of sufficient sample can now be resumed. A miniscule amount of cerebrospinal fluid is required in comparison to the traditional benchtop assay in order to further study central nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injury. Similarly, only small samples of synovial fluid are necessary to delve into possible treatments for autoimmune joint diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Currently, the research team is exploring potential commercial applications for ELISA-on-a-chip while continually conducting large-scale controlled studies to discover other potential uses of their ‘lab-on-a-chip’ technology.