7 Diagnostic Developments of 2017
The range and ability of diagnostic tests is constantly evolving, helping to detect diseases earlier, in more detail, and across more regions of the globe. In this list we take a look at 7 promising developments in diagnostic technologies from 2017.
1. A Mass Spec Pen to Rapidly Identify Cancer
One of the biggest challenges of cancer surgery is making sure that all traces of the cancer are removed whilst preserving as much healthy tissue as possible. The success of this could be greatly improved with a new tool recently developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.
In just 10 seconds, the Mass Spec Pen can accurately identify cancerous tissue during surgery, with over 96% accuracy. The pen works by analysing metabolites from the tissue, which differ between normal and cancerous cells. It is hoped the technology will begin testing in surgery in 2018.
2. Paper Point-of-Care Zika Test
Population screening could play an important role in diagnosing and managing Zika, detecting the presence of the disease before symptoms appear. This relies on access to low cost and user-friendly tests which can be used in resource-limited settings.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis are developing such a test. Made from paper, the test costing approximately 10 to 15 cents, produces a colour change when immunoglobins in the blood of an infected patient react with tiny gold nanorods on the paper. A special nanocrystal layer provides protection to the test during shipping and storage.
3. Transparent Tissues for Pathological Diagnosis
Conventional methods of pathological diagnosis rely on staining thin sections of patient specimens. Imaging in 3D could overcome some of the limitations associated with this technique, and help pathologists detect abnormalities which may otherwise have been missed.
A recent study has demonstrated that CUBIC (Clear, Unobstructed Brain/Body Imaging Cocktails and Computational Analysis) is effective at delineating normal and abnormal regions in lung and lymph node tissues. The promising results highlight the potential for 3D histopathology to improve diagnosis procedures.
4. Self-powered, Paper-based Electrochemical Diagnostics
Point-of-care diagnostics which are portable, low-cost, and require little infrastructure can help to improve healthcare in regions with limited access to more sophisticated laboratory equipment.
SPEDs (Self-powered, Paper-based Electrochemical Devices), recently developed at Purdue University, offer a number of advantages for users in remote regions or military bases. Made from paper, the inexpensive devices are lightweight and flexible, and can test for a number of diseases without requiring an expert user.
5. A Microfluidic Chip to Predict Preterm Birth
Identifying pregnant women at risk of preterm birth could enable earlier interventions to help delay birth and strengthen the baby’s lungs, reducing the chances of morbidity and mortality.
A newly developed integrated chip can concentrate, separate, and detect tiny amounts of P1 peptide in a blood sample. P1 can indicate an increased risk of preterm birth, so the chip could eventually be used in health care settings to identify pregnant women who may benefit from medical interventions.
6. Smartphone TRI Analyzer
An increasing number of diagnostic devices are being developed for use with smartphones, a result of their widespread presence, ease-of-use, and growing power and abilities.
Developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the TRI (Transmission, Reflection and Intensity Spectral) Analyzer is the first handheld device able to perform three of the most common types of tests in medical diagnostics, using a smartphone’s internal rear-facing camera as a spectrometer.
7. A Wearable Sweat Sensor
Sweat is a promising biofluid for non-invasive diagnostics, containing a number of solutes which can act as biomarkers for health and disease.
After stimulating the skin to produce tiny amounts of sweat, a new wearable sweat sensor detects the molecules and ions present, and then sends the data to a server for analysis. The sensor has been used in studies to detect chloride ions, which could lead to improvements in diagnosing cystic fibrosis.