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New Technology Diagnoses Sickle Cell Disease in Record Time

Analysis  |  By Scott Mace  
   November 18, 2020

Faster, more sensitive testing method uses technology 'smaller than a quarter' to diagnose disease.

Diseases of the blood, like sickle cell disease, have traditionally taken a full day and tedious lab work and expensive equipment to diagnose, but researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Colorado Anschutz have developed a way to diagnose these conditions with greater sensitivity and precision in only one minute. According to Medical Product Outsourcing (MPO), "their technology is smaller than a quarter and requires only a small droplet of blood to assess protein interactions, dysfunction, or mutations."

Oxygen gets to cells throughout the body via red blood cells. Hemoglobin, the molecule that delivers that oxygen, can be affected by sickle cell disease. Crescent or sickle-shaped red blood cells can appear in hemoglobin where malaria is present in different parts of the world.

Traditionally, Thermal Shift Assays were used to determine how stable proteins were under different conditions. New Acousto Thermal Shift Assays allow two teams at the University of Colorado to do the same assessment faster and with greater sensitivity.

The new method heats a protein sample, while concentrating the proteins that do not dissolve, by using high-amplitude sound waves. This method employs a channel where protein samples get deposited, while two electrodes on each side generate the wave to heat and concentrate the proteins.

"The traditional methods for thermal profiling require specialized equipment such as calorimeters, polymerase chain reaction machines, and plate readers that require at least some technical expertise to operate," said University of Colorado researcher Kerri Ball. "These instruments are also not very portable, requiring samples to be transported to the instruments for analysis."

Acousto Thermal Shift Assays require a power source, a microscope, and a simple camera, such as those found on smart phones. There is no need to apply a florescent dye, which is sometimes required to highlight protein changes in a traditional thermal shift assay.

Scott Mace is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.

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