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Top 5 Diagnostics Stories of 2020

Top 5 Diagnostics Stories of 2020 content piece image

With testing highlighted as a critical component of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has seen numerous advances in diagnostic technologies that can be used to detect individuals with current or past SARS-CoV-2 infections. However, in addition to these, significant breakthroughs have been made in diagnostics for a range of infectious diseases, cancers and other conditions. In this listicle, we look back at five of the most-read non-COVID-19 diagnostics news stories published on Technology Networks this year.

Rheumatoid arthritis flares could be predicted by a blood test

After analyzing the RNA of cells in the blood of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and comparing the results to a symptom record kept by the patients, researchers from The Rockefeller University identified molecular changes that occurred prior to a flare. One week before a flare, an increase in RNA from a newfound cell type was observed, which the team named PRIME (pre-inflammation mesenchymal) cells. 

“PRIME cells are one thing you might want to target to arrest the flare before it happens,” author Robert Darnell commented in a press release. “That’s the ideal of medical science – to know enough about a disease that you can put your finger on what’s about to make someone sick.”

Published in: New England Journal of Medicine
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Crumpled graphene makes ultra-sensitive cancer DNA detector

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated that crumpling graphene can make it more than ten thousand times more sensitive to DNA. This could enable it to be used as a biosensor for ultra-sensitive, low-cost and rapid detection of biomarkers associated with cancer and other diseases.

"Eventually the goal would be to build cartridges for a handheld device that would detect target molecules in a few drops of blood, for example, in the way that blood sugar is monitored," said study leader Rashid Bashir in a press release. "The vision is to have measurements quickly and in a portable format."

Published in:
Nature Communications
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Diagnostic fidget spinner developed

A team from the Institute for Basic Sciences created a novel point-of-care diagnostic device inspired by fidget spinners. The device effectively facilitates bacterial cell enrichment by exploiting the centrifugal force generated by spinning. In a study of 39 patients suspected to have urinary tract infections, the device provided a result comparable to the gold-standard culture method in only 50 minutes. 

Published in:
Nature Biomedical Engineering
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Blood test can predict timing of final menstrual period

Results from a study of 1,537 women between the ages of 42 and 63 years suggest that the timing of a woman’s final menstrual period can be predicted by measuring levels of anti-Müllerian hormone.

“Establishing a way to measure time to the final menstrual period has long been the holy grail of menopause research,” said co-lead author of the paper Nanette Santoro, in a press release. “Using bleeding patterns or previously available tests to predict the time to menopause can only help us narrow the window to a four-year period, which is not clinically useful. Women can make better medical decisions with the more complete information offered by new, more sensitive anti-Müllerian hormone measurements.”

Published in:
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism
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A micro-device to detect bacteria 

Researchers from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) developed a microfluidic device containing magnetic beads that can isolate bacteria from a range of fluids, including lake water and plasma. The device is well suited for point-of-care use, being inexpensive and easy to operate, and could also be a useful tool to isolate drug-resistant strains of bacteria.

“Our goal is not only isolating and detecting bacteria in water and human plasma, but also working with whole blood samples to understand and detect blood infection such as sepsis. We already have a concrete plan for that. The idea is to use a pair of the nano-sieve devices for sequential isolation,” said Lapizco-Encinas, an associate professor in RIT’s biomedical engineering department in a press release.

Published in:
ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
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