BERKELEY, Calif., Aug. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a new biochip can quickly determine whether someone has been exposed to dangerous levels of ionizing radiation.
The chip contains an array of nanosensors that measure concentrations of proteins in blood that change after radiation exposure, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported Thursday.
Although still under development, the technology could lead to a hand-held device that "lights up" if a person needs medical attention in the aftermath of an incident involving radiation, they said.
In tests on mice requiring just a drop of blood, the technology was able to determine the radiation dose in minutes and yielded results up to seven days after exposure, a lab release said.
"More work is needed, but the chip could lead to a much-needed way to quickly triage people after possible radiation exposure," Andy Wyrobek of Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division said.
"The goal is to give medical personnel a way to identify people who require immediate care," he said. "They also need to identify the expected much larger number of people who receive a dose that doesn't require medical attention."
Wyrobek and colleagues in Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division, working with researchers at Stanford University, have identified more than 250 proteins that change after exposure to radiation and can serve as biomarkers that indicate whether a person has been exposed to radiation, and how much.
The technology is an improvement over older methods that often took several days to provide results, which is far too late to identify people who would benefit from immediate treatment, he said.
"You add a drop of blood, wait a few minutes, and get results," Wyrobek said of the new nanosensor.