London, Nov 15 (UNI) A home testing kit that detects life-threatening diseases through a simple blood test could be available within 10 years, according to a leading scientist.
In many cases a quick diagnosis significantly improves a patient's chances of recovering from an illness.
The test entails health assessment of each and every organ of the body and is expected to be the first major advance to emerge from a new field of biology called ''proteomic fingerprinting.'' The experts working on the research and development hopes to come out with the discovery of the test within a decade that could be done two to three times a year and uses a prick of blood to check the health of each organ in the body, informed Dr Leroy Hood, who is leading the research at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle.
However, some experts believe the technology will also introduce new ethical issues for GPs and patients.
The incurable diseases will be diagnosed much before they start causing illness. For GPs using the tests, this raises the difficult question of whether patients should be told, and if so, what counseling they should receive.
The technique is being developed on the fact that every organ in the body constantly releases hundreds of different proteins into the bloodstream. Around 50 of these are unique to each organ, and make up what scientists call a ''protein fingerprint'' for the organ. When disease strikes the brain, liver, kidney or another organ, it alters the protein fingerprint. reported Guardian.
A version of the test has already been used to diagnose mice infected with BSE, a fatal brain disease thought to be caused by rogue proteins called prions. The test confirmed the disease long before symptoms appeared. As yet, there is no reliable test or cure for BSE in cattle or the human equivalent, vCJD.
In the experiments, Dr Hood's team infected animals with BSE and watched how the protein fingerprint from their brain tissue changed over time. The mice began showing symptoms after 18 weeks, with full blown disease at 22 weeks. The test was able to diagnose infection after just six weeks.
''Within six months it would be possible to confirm whether the test was also capable of picking up early-stage infections of BSE in cattle and vCJD in humans.'' said Dr Hood.
The team led by Dr Hood is working on other diseases, including prostate cancer, ovarian cancer and glioblastoma, a type of brain tumour. Eventually, they hope to develop a single test that will spot early signs of disease in 50 different organs and tissues in the body.
The scientist was speaking ahead of a lecture he gave last night at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. His research team has patented the test and plans to commercialise it.
Dr Hood is also credited of exempelary researches in DNA sequencing automation, dramatically accelerating the Human Genome Project in the 90's. His breakthroughs led to his induction this year into the America's prestigious National Inventors Hall of Fame.
At Hammersmith Hospital in London, Dr Dan Agranoff is using proteomic fingerprinting for early diagnosis of TB and life-threatening lung infections that affect patients with weak immune systems, such as leukaemia patients and those who have had bone marrow or organ transplants.
Potentially, this is extremely powerful. There's often a huge value of being able to diagnose a disease early," he said.
The test being used for vast range of diseases is haunted by ethical issues Agranoff added.
''If you can screen for something at a very early stage, but you have no treatment, you're at risk of causing a lot of anxiety without being able to do anything about it.'' UNI