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Technique may quickly detect diseases, cancer with portable device

Researchers say the test could potentially be used to diagnose diseases in doctors offices within about 10 minutes.

By
Stephen Feller
UCLA researchers used a molecular chain reaction to detect the presence of proteins in blood and plasma in a way that is faster and simpler, designing a testing assay that could be adapted for portable devices to diagnose a range of diseases and cancers. Photo by Donghyuk Kim/University of California Los Angeles
UCLA researchers used a molecular chain reaction to detect the presence of proteins in blood and plasma in a way that is faster and simpler, designing a testing assay that could be adapted for portable devices to diagnose a range of diseases and cancers. Photo by Donghyuk Kim/University of California Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Los Angeles California created a test that detects biomarkers for disease in about 10 minutes, and they have plans to pair it with a portable device to make it even easier to use.

There are already tests to detect proteins in blood or other bodily fluids that indicate infection, but results can take hours and most are not easy to use.

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The UCLA test eliminates the need for additional enzymes, enzyme washing, temperature requirements or other complicated steps that slow the process.

"Because the technique requires fewer steps than other assays, it can have a significant impact on distributed diagnostics and public health reporting, especially in combination with cost-effective portable and networked reader technology that our lab is developing," Dr. Aydogan Ozcan, a professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering, said in a press release.

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In a proof-of-concept study, published in the word ACS Nano, the researchers show how they devised a method of dividing a DNA key into two parts that come together in the presence of a targeted protein.

To test the method, researchers used streptavidin, a protein used widely to test diagnostic methods, and influenza nucleoprotein, a protein associated with the influenza virus.

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While the researchers say more work remains to adapt their method for more complex fluid samples that may have compounds that interfere with detection, the concept has potential as a fast, easy diagnostic method.

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"Although demonstrated initially in detecting protein associated with flu, we envision the approach can be generalized to a range of protein biomarkers associated with infectious diseases and cancer," said Dr. Omal Garner, an assistant professor of pathology and medicine at UCLA.

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