Researchers in China believe they've come up with an inexpensive diagnostic test for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) using a flower-shaped cutting tool and special paper.
HCV affects patients globally and can cause everything from cirrhosis of the liver to cancer. The hope is that an inexpensive way to test for HCV could improve on the existing standard of care, which can be costly and time-consuming due to an initial test and an expensive, second diagnostic to confirm the diagnosis. A paper HCV diagnostic test could help to make screening for the blood-borne pathogen more wide-ranging, leading to broader medical intervention and treatment. It might also boost test compliance, researchers hope, because extra time and money required under current standards leaves many patients unwilling or unable to pursue a definitive diagnosis that can take hours or longer.
Researchers from a variety of Chinese institutions took part in the study, including the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Medial Sciences, and the School of Basic Medicine at Peking Union Medical College. The journal Analytical Chemistry details their findings.
It's all a really simple process. Researchers take a highly flammable paper made of nitrocellulose, and then rely on a flower-shaped metal paper cutter to punch out shapes for their tests. For the blood test, they add antigens, antibodies and other chemicals to the paper, and can complete the initial and confirmatory HCV test at the same time. The process takes minutes to complete.
Paper diagnostics are increasingly seen as one way to expand diagnostic screening to emerging markets, or to countries where medical testing can be harder to access. Researchers have long been intrigued by the approach. Georgia Institute of Technology scientists, for example, came up with a coating to turn basic paper into a superstructure that could be used as a diagnostic tool. A University of Washington bioengineer and his team also came up with their own way to make regular, every day paper stick to "medically interesting molecules," an advance that could lead to new pregnancy tests or diagnostics for diabetes and malaria, among other diseases.
- read the release
- here's the journal abstract