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Top 10 Diagnostics News Stories of 2019

Top 10 Diagnostics News Stories of 2019 content piece image
Credit: iStock

2019 has seen some exciting developments in diagnostics. In this list, we look at ten of the most-read stories in the field published on Technology Networks over the last year.

Game-changing Test for Prion Diseases

A team of scientists developed a unique method to detect and isolate prion proteins in body fluids sampled from infected animals. This is currently the only published method capable of noninvasively detecting prions in living subjects. The test uses special beads, comprised of tiny magnets covered in peptoids (artificial compounds that mimic peptides), which latch onto misfolded prion protein aggregates in the samples.

"Our peptoid beads have the ability to detect the misfolded proteins that act as infectious agents, so it could have a significant impact in the realm of prion diseases, but we have also shown that it can seek out the large aggregated proteins that are the disease agents in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, among others" said Ronald Zuckermann, one of the research team's founding members, in a press release.

Published in: 
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A Blood Test for Pain

Researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine identified biomarkers in the blood and developed a test that can be used to objectively determine the severity of a patient’s pain. Using the test could help in the fight against the opioid crisis, giving doctors a more accurate way to assess and treat pain.

“The opioid epidemic occurred because addictive medications were overprescribed due to the fact that there was no objective measure whether someone was in pain, or how severe their pain was,” lead author Professor Alexander Niculescu said in a press release. “Before, doctors weren’t being taught good alternatives. The thought was that this person says they are in pain, let’s prescribe it. Now people are seeing that this created a huge problem. We need alternatives to opioids, and we need to treat people in a precise fashion. This test we’ve developed allows for that.”

Published in: 
Molecular Psychiatry
Ready the full story here

Sepsis Sensed on Needle-shaped Substrates in 2.5 Minutes

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde developed an innovative, low cost test, which can detect sepsis in just two and a half minutes, a vast improvement on existing hospital tests which can take up to 72 hours. The biosensor works by detecting the presence of interleukin-6 (a protein biomarker of sepsis secreted by the immune system) in the bloodstream.

"Any kind of test that enables us to identify sepsis earlier, before symptoms even present themselves, could help save even more lives and bring us closer to our goal of ending preventable deaths from sepsis,” Dr Ron Daniels BEM, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust Sepsis Trust said in a press release.

Published in: 
Biosensors and Bioelectronics 
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Home Urine Test to Diagnose Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer diagnosis could soon be revolutionized by the introduction of an “At-Home Collection Kit”. Research from the University of East Anglia demonstrated that urine samples collected at home can be used on the Prostate Urine Risk test which diagnoses aggressive prostate cancer. Not only does this mean that men won’t need to go into the clinic to provide a urine sample, it could also mean that biomarker levels are higher and more consistent as the first urination of the day can be used to provide the sample. 

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Fibromyalgia Blood Test Progress

Currently, there is no gold standard for fibromyalgia diagnosis, which makes clinical diagnosis extremely difficult. A blood test for fibromyalgia would be a relief for millions of people living with the poorly understood condition, which is characterized by many symptoms including chronic widespread pain, sleep problems, and fatigue.

A collaboration between rheumatologists and the Ohio State food science and technology department, led to the development of a vibrational spectroscopy-based test, which can characterize the unique energy of different metabolites and create a unique “fingerprint”.

“Each person’s blood is unique, like a fingerprint, and this test can show us the intricate details of that fingerprint. Now, we can see that certain patterns in those fingerprints indicate fibromyalgia, while different ones signal other conditions,” explained Luis Rodriguez-Saona, co-author and professor of food science and technology at Ohio State University.

Published in: 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry 
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Potential for a Parkinson's Smell Test

You may have heard about the woman with the ability to smell Parkinson’s disease by detecting the unique odor on the skin of patients with the condition? Now scientists from The University of Manchester have identified the small molecules contained in sebum that are responsible for this unique scent, opening the door for the development of skin swab testing as a non-invasive screening method to detect Parkinson’s disease.

Professor David Dexter, Deputy Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, said in a press release: “More research is needed to find out at what stage a skin test could detect Parkinson’s, or whether it is also occurs in other Parkinson’s related disorders, but the results so far hold real potential. Both to change the way we diagnose the condition and it may even help in the development of new and better treatments for the 145,00 people living with Parkinson’s in the UK.” 

Published in: 
ACS Central Science 
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Blood Test for Endometriosis Detects up to 9 in 10 Cases

A pioneering blood test developed by MDNA Life Sciences and Professor Christian Becker from the Nuffield Department of Women’s & Reproductive Health can detect up to 90% of cases of endometriosis. The test looks for biomarkers of endometriosis in the blood through the close examination of mutations in mitochondrial DNA and could offer women a much faster and less invasive route to diagnosis.

"There is a long lag phase between the onset and diagnosis of the disease, mainly due to its non-specific symptoms and because it can only be diagnosed invasively by laparoscopy. A specific, non-invasive test to aid diagnosis of endometriosis is certainly an unmet clinical need," Professor Becker said in a press release at the time.

Read the full story here

Lyme Disease Diagnosed Within 15 Minutes

A team at Columbia University, led by Professor Sam Sia, developed a microfluidic test which can detect Lyme disease in as little as 15 minutes. This is a vast improvement on the standard 2-tiered approach, which can take several hours to complete and requires experienced lab personnel. “Our findings are the first to demonstrate that Lyme disease diagnosis can be carried out in a microfluidic format that can provide rapid quantitative results. This means that our test could easily be used directly in a doctor’s office, obviating having to send the samples out to a laboratory that needs at least a couple of hours, if not days, to get test results,” Sia said in a press release.

Published in: 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology 
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Biomarker for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Identified

Chronic fatigue syndrome currently lacks a standard, reliable diagnostic test, which often leaves sufferers being told their symptoms are imaginary. In an attempt to provide scientific proof of the disease, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine created a blood-based test which was able to accurately flag chronic fatigue syndrome patients based on how their immune cells responded to salt stress.

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Return of Breast Cancer Detected Nearly Eleven Months Earlier

A study funded by Breast Cancer Now and conducted at five UK hospitals found that testing for levels of cancer DNA circulating in the blood could detect the return of breast cancer almost eleven months earlier than symptoms appeared or hospital scans were able to detect secondary tumors. “We hope that by identifying relapse much earlier we will be able to treat it much more effectively than we can do now, perhaps even prevent some people from relapsing,” Professor Nicholas Turner, Professor of Molecular Oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said in a press release.

Published in: 
JAMA Oncology 
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While it's a bit late to put your orders in this year, now is your chance to have your say for 2020. What diagnostics topics would you like to hear about next year? Drop us a line!