Scientists at Stanford University have said they have developed a fresh test for type 1 diabetes, which will cost only a fraction of the current price.  The really cool thing about this new test is that it could speed up the diagnosis of the disease from days to hours.  This method could be useful anywhere on the planet, but especially so in poorer countries where many people with diabetes go undiagnosed because the existing tests are too expensive to be offered widely.

The current testing method involves blood samples that are sent to a lab, where radioactive materials are used to detect the cause of the disease.  This is a so-called auto-antibody, which attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This is a labour-intensive test and currently costs hundreds of dollars.

Diabetes Chip

Instead of sending a patient’s blood to a laboratory to be tested, the newly developed test, works by the sample is placed on a $20 chip roughly the size of a business card along with a chemical, which produces a fluorescent signal when it encounters auto-antibodies. A glass plate on the chip is coated with nanoscale islands of gold that enhance the fluorescent signal – This helps to ensure the test is reliable.  The test can differentiate between type 1 diabetes, which causes the body to produce practically no insulin, and type 2, in which the body does not produce enough insulin.

Joyce Lee*, associate professor of paediatrics and communicable diseases at the University of Michigan said, “In terms of cost, convenience, and speed, it’s likely to be a better solution.”

Brian Feldman, the assistant professor of paediatric endocrinology at Stanford University, who led the team of researchers, is the senior author of the paper that was published this week in Nature Medicine.  The team has filed for a patent on the chip and is in the process of seeking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are launching a startup company for the chip.

(*not involved in the study).

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