Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers can expect to see new technology translated to a wide variety of diagnostic tests
Researchers claim a new diagnostic technology for detecting the HIV virus is 10 times more sensitive than traditional techniques. More remarkable is the fact that this new technology enables analyte detection at very low concentrations with the naked eye!
Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers won’t see this technology enter clinical use for some time. That is because the developers hope to deploy the accurate, fast, and very cheap HIV medical laboratory tests in Africa first. Once validated in actual clinical use, this radically innovative technology could be adapted for use in a wide variety of clinical laboratory tests.
Scientists at the London Centre for Nanotechnology at Imperial College London (ICL) developed the prototype biosensing mechanism, according to a press release published by EurekAlert!. They claim that the qualitative visual sensor technology is 10 times more sensitive than the current gold standard methods for measuring biomarkers.
Radical New Line of Investigation Uses Nanotechnology
“For many diseases, using current [diagnostic] technology to look for early signs of disease can be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack,” stated Molly Stevens, Ph.D.. She is Professor of Biomedical Materials and Regenerative Medicine and the Research Director for Biomedical Material Sciences in the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at ICL.
When biomarkers exist in very low concentrations, existing biosensors become less sensitive and less predictable at detecting these biomarkers, stated a blog post at Next Big Future. Typically this means that existing biosensors are not good at detecting the target biomarkers during the earliest stages of disease.
As developed by researchers at the London Centre for Nanotechnology, the new biosensor uses gold nanoparticles to generate a color change in the analyzed samples. If there is no analyte present, the solution turns red. If the analyte is present, the solution turns blue. The color changes are easily visible to the naked eye.
The research team achieved radically different results over existing diagnostic methodologies by developing and applying nanotechnology techniques. “We have abandoned principles within the existing methodological framework [for diagnostics] to propose a radically new line of investigation,” declared Stevens’ research assistant and study co-author, Roberto de la Rica Quesada, Ph.D.. He is a Marie Curie Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at ICL.
New Medical Laboratory Test May Detect Disease Earlier
Stevens conducted two sets of studies using plasmonic ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) tests on human blood samples. In the first study, she collaborated with researchers at University of Vigo in Spain to test samples for the biomarker prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is an early indicator for prostate cancer.
In the second study, Stevens’ ICL team successfully tested the visual sensor technology by detecting the p24 biomarker, according to the press release. P24 in the blood indicates HIV infection.
“We only looked at the biomarker for one disease in [these studies],” Stevens stated on the Next Big Future blog. “But we’re confident that the test can be adapted to identify many other diseases at an early stage.”
Existing Medical Lab Tests Can Be Expensive for Developing Countries
This new diagnostic nanotechnology could have tremendous impact on testing for HIV and other infectious diseases in developing countries. “Unfortunately, the existing gold standard detection methods can be too expensive to be implemented in parts of the world where resources are scarce,” observed Stevens in the press release. “Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation, and it is ten times cheaper.”
Clinical laboratory administrators and pathologists can view this latest potentially disruptive innovation in diagnostics as further evidence of the rapidly-changing face of medical laboratory testing.
—Pamela Scherer McLeod