Gates-funded research could lead to universal, antibody-based Dx

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are in proof-of-concept testing on a diagnostic approach that could lead to the diagnosis of all sorts of diseases without a microbial cause, including autoimmune disorders, cancer and viral infectious disease. The research is backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Unlike the current approach, the test would not require starting with a known antigen. Instead, this technique relies upon the peptoids, which are random molecular shapes that are inorganic but can be hooked onto microscopic plastic beads to connect with corresponding shapes on an antibody. Scientists can then examine the bead with the antibody. The approach was used effectively to screen HIV-infected patients from health controls. "This 'needle-in-a-molecular haystack' approach is a new way to develop diagnostic assays," said senior author Dr. Donald Burke of the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health, who is also the dean and director of Pitt's Center for Vaccine Research, in a statement. "The method does not rely on starting with known viral components. This is important because there are conditions for which there isn't a known antigen, such as newly emerged epidemics, autoimmune diseases or even responses to traumatic injury." More