Scientists in Montreal have developed a revolutionary method for detecting a wide range of diseases that can be performed in minutes while costing very little. Using equipment similar to the test strips used by diabetics for analyzing blood sugar levels, a biosensor utilizing matching pairs of DNA strands performs the analysis by bonding to antibodies present in the body from various diseases.
A paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society described the new method. If a disease being tested for is present, the antibody attaches to one of the DNA strands, which can then complete its pairing with the complementary strand and produce an electrical signal.
One of the paper’s co-authors, Alexis Vallée-Bellisle, commented on the development, “What these tests are looking for is antibodies — proteins that are generated by the body in response to viruses or bacteria. The highlight of the technique we developed is you put a drop of blood on our electrodes, and in five or 10 minutes you can know if you have the antibody. And in principle, you can detect any antibody you want."
Not only can the test detect the presence of a particular disease’s antibodies, it can also detect the prevalence of those antibodies within the blood. The process is known as electrochemical steric-hindrance hybridization assay (eSHHA).
There currently exist antibody test for HIV that are similar to eSHHA, but are unable to detect the levels of antibodies found. This feature could be useful for fine-tuning the dosages of drugs for individual patients.
STD screenings could be performed for over a dozen different antibodies simultaneously using just a drop of blood.
One of the method’s biggest advantages is cost, with one test electrode costing only five to ten cents, and the associated DNA sequences costing as little as $10.
Vallée-Belisle is currently searching for business partners as he prepares to bring the new process to market.
The development is similar to the super secretive Theranos Labs, a company which has raised billions of dollars for similar rapid testing machines despite disclosing precious little about how exactly it conducts the tests.