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article imageDiagnostic tool printed for portable disease testing

By Tim Sandle     Aug 7, 2017 in Science
Scientists from Duke University have used an inkjet printed tool for conducting diagnostic testing for use in point-of-care settings. The aim is to screen patients for markers of specific diseases.
The biomedical tool is in the form of a portable diagnostic device, designed to look for specific biological markers that signal the presence of specific diseases. As well as being accurate, a second aim with the development was to reduce the time-to-result for patients from days to a matter of minutes. Currently laboratory tests are usually based on enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. These tests can take up to 24 hours to produce a result.
The basis of the device is with bio-printing. 3D bioprinting refers to the process of creating cell patterns in a confined space using 3D printing technologies, where cell function and viability are preserved within the printed construct. Special printers are used to artificially construct living tissue by outputting layer-upon-layer of living cells. This was so for the new device, whereby an array of antibodies was printed onto a glass slide with a nonstick polymer coating. The printed array consists of two types of antibodies: immobilized capture antibodies and soluble detection antibodies, tagged with a fluorescent markers to allow medics to identify how much of the antigen is present.
The resultant diagnostic tool is called the D4 assay. This is a self-contained test that can detect low levels of antigens (these are protein markers of a specific diseases). For example, with screening for cancer, a biomarker may be a molecule secreted by a tumor or a specific response of the body to the presence of cancer. One example is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA), also known as gamma-seminoprotein; this is a glycoprotein enzyme encoded in humans by the KLK3 gene.
This analysis can be obtained from just one, drop of blood. The technology is an example of “lab on a chip” developments that are speeding by diagnostic testing, producing results far more quickly than is possible with conventional laboratory technologies. Commenting on this, one of the lead researchers, Ashutosh Chilkoti said in communication provided to Digital Journal: “The real significance of the assay is the polymer brush coating. The polymer brush allowed us to store all of the tools we need on the chip while maintaining a simple design.”
By being portable, the test kit can be brought closer to the patient (what is termed the ‘point-of-care’ setting). The results from D4 can be obtained via a tabletop scanner or 3-D printed smartphone attachment. It is also hoped that, as well as disease detection, the device can be used to assess the severity of an illness; help medics to plan an effective treatment strategy; and to track an individual’s response to a given treatment.
The new development has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research paper is titled “Inkjet-Printed Point-of-Care Immunoassay on a Nanoscale Polymer Brush Enables Subpicomolar Detection of Analytes in Blood.”
More about 3D printing, bioprinting, Biomarkers, Cancer, Disease
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