Medical tests to be as simple as swiping a card

October 30th, 2008 - 2:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 30 (IANS) Scientists have designed a sensitive prototype to test dozens of diseases simultaneously by scanning a card loaded with microscopic blood, saliva or urine samples.Unlike lab tests today, results could be available in minutes, not hours to weeks.

The prototype works on the same principle - giant magnetoresistance or GMR - that reads data on computer hard drives or listen to tunes on portable digital music players.

“Think how fast your PC reads data on a hard drive, and imagine using the same technology to monitor your health,” informed Marc Porter, a Utah (University) Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) professor of chemistry, chemical engineering and bioengineering.

Porter co-authored a pair of studies demonstrating the new method for rapid disease testing, according to an Utah University release. The research will be published in Saturday issue of Analytical Chemistry.

“You can envision this as a wellness check in which a patient sample - blood, urine, saliva - is spotted on a sample stick or card, scanned, and then the readout indicates your state of well-being,” said USTAR research scientist Michael Granger, co-author of the research. “We have a great sensor able to look for many disease markers.”

Porter and Granger conducted the research with John Nordling, Rachel Millen and Heather Bullen at Iowa State University in Ames - where Porter once worked - and Mark Tondra, then at NVE Corp, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

The Utah Science, Technology and Research initiative seeks to create new high-tech jobs by recruiting world-class research teams to develop products and services that can be commercialized to start new businesses and stimulate Utah’s economy.

The prototype card-swipe device consists of a GMR “read head” and sample stick. Right now, the device is about the size of personal computer. But Granger said that when it is developed commercially, the GMR sensor device will look like a credit card reader.

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