Researchers develop home disease test strip

December 26, 2011 8:27:43 PM PST
Advanced printing technologies could one day replace traditional blood and urine tests in hospitals. Scientists are pioneering a way to use ink and antibodies to test for illnesses such as HIV, prostate cancer or simple cholesterol tests.

Tiny dots on a piece of paper could soon revolutionize the way diseases and other ailments are diagnosed, and save valuable time and money in the process.

"We thought it would be a good idea to see if we could turn an expensive test for the hospital into a high volume test that could be possibly moved out to the point of care," said Tim Claypole, a research professor at Swansea University.

Hospitals and doctors currently spend around $800 per test to collect blood samples and send them off to a lab. But by mixing ink with living antibodies and then printing them on plastic strips, tests can be conducted. Exposing the microdots to blood or urine samples will cause the dots to change colors.

"Ultimately it could be a test that somebody in their own home could do. Certainly the move towards printed plastic electronics means that you could have a completely disposable sensor. So if a person was feeling unwell they could monitor their own condition," said Claypole.

And for patients who are impatient about their health, the test strips could provide for much quicker diagnoses.

"For some things I think it would be very, very helpful for when you're screening for cholesterol, possibly for slightly low blood counts and things like that, where you're not too worried about the absolute final accuracy. That might well be very helpful for patients because you can actually tell them the answer there and then when you see them, rather than bringing them back later," said David Bailey, M.D.

More research needs to be carried out, but scientists say the strips could become as common as home diabetic blood monitors.