Ways Forward For Healthcare Spot Tests
A recent article in the Euro Bio Pharmaceutical Review by Bio sensing experts at the University of the West of England concludes that new technologies are critical to an increasing demand and expectation by patients to get instant test results.
Professor Richard Luxton and Dr Janice Kiely from the Institute for Bio sensing Technology (IBST) at UWE were sought by the South West Regional Development Agency to write the article as a way of demonstrating the positive impact that South West researchers are having on the development of new technologies for on the spot diagnostic and prognostic testing.
Their opinions are widely sought and will be published globally by the Regional Development agency network. Professor Luxton will have an opportunity to present findings at an international conference in Georgia USA in May where he will highlight the part IBST and UWE play in the field of Biosensors, prognostics and diagnostics, an area for which the University is a leading force in research developments.
“Tests are increasingly being performed nearer to the patient in homes and clinics”, says Professor Luxton, Director of the IBST, “and the benefits are numerous – tests are easy to read, can be performed in a variety of settings, they eliminate waiting and mean that diagnostic or prognostic tests can be acted on immediately. The demand for these types of tests is big business with the predicted market for antibody-based biosensors forecast to be $1.1 billion.
“Historically these tests were carried out in hospitals but the new generation dip stick type tests makes is easy for people to test for things like pregnancy. These tests rely on immunological interactions between an antibody and target molecule being measured using lateral flow technology. The tests have become increasingly sophisticated so that the lines which are hard for people with colour blindness have now been replaced with a electronic readout.
“Rapid flow tests are perfect for when a yes or no answer is required so they work well for pregnancy and ovulation testing for example. But sometimes more complex measures are needed when for example measuring glucose levels for people suffering from diabetes. Biosensors have revolutionised point of care testing with the development of devices that can measure glucose, lactate, ammonia, cholesterol and urea. Other areas that researchers have been investigating include fluorescent labels used in the development of devices to measure infectious agents, cardiac markers and detection of illegal drugs.
“In addition great inroads have been made in volatile sensing through breath and skin. Electronic nose technology is being adopted for diagnostic applications to help identify infections and some cancers.
“The future holds much exciting potential in the area of diagnostics using DNA and RNA using nucleic acid sensors to detect infectious agents, in cancer screening and detection of genetic disease in a developing foetus before birth.
“We can say with absolute certainty that point of care testing is a growing sector for health care driven by availability of new technologies and the need for rapid results. Areas that can benefit from point of test technologies include urinalysis, blood gases and electrolytes, haemoglobin analysers, blood glucose, coagulation, pregnancy and fertility, cardiac markers, illegal drugs, tumour markers, infectious diseases, sexually transmitted diseases and testing new therapeutic efficacy (perhaps without the need for animal models).”