Use of antibodies that detect biomarkers in as little as 15 minutes now allows researchers at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom to identify such diseases as prostate and ovarian cancer, stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), heart disease, and fungal infections. Using biosensors to identify the molecular markers for disease, the technology is much faster than current testing methods.
One goal of this research is to provide a way for hospitals to use this technology for rapid diagnosis. Another goal is to allow surgeons to use the technology to improve the speed and accuracy of referral to specialty physicians. Along with the ability to identify cancer, MS, heart disease, and infections, researchers say these biosensors may also be able to detect a wide range of analytes, including biomarkers in tuberculosis and HIV.
“We believe this to be the next generation diagnostic testing. We can now detect almost any analyte faster, cheaper, and more easily than the current accepted testing methodology,” said Paul Millner, M.D, a member of the faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds.
Researchers say that this technology could be developed into a device the size of a mobile phone, where different sensor chips could be inserted, depending on the disease being sought. “We’ve designed simple instrumentation to make the biosensors easy to use and understand,” Millner explained. “They’ll work in a format similar to the glucose biosensor testing kits that diabetics use.”
Currently blood and urine are tested for disease markers using test technologies such as ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay). Developed in the 1970s, ELISA takes an average of two hours to complete, can be expensive, and can be performed only by highly trained staff.
The new biomarker technology was developed through a European collaboration of researchers and commercial partners in a 2.7 million Euro ($3.6 million) project called ELISHA (Electronic Immuno-Interfaces and Surface Nanobiotechnology: A Heterodoxical Approach).