Washington, Oct 1 : Testing for diseases including cancer and multiple sclerosis could soon take 15 minutes and would be as simple as using a pregnancy test kit, say scientists.
The team led by scientists at the University of Leeds have developed a hand-held device that can test for serious diseases from a tiny blood or urine sample in just 15 minutes.
The biosensor technology uses antibodies to detect biomarkers, which are molecules in the human body and are often a marker for disease. Thus, the biomarkers make the technology much faster than current testing methods.
The technology could be used in doctors' surgeries for more accurate referral to consultants, and in hospitals for rapid diagnosis.
Tests have shown that the biosensors can detect a wide range of analytes (substances being measured), including biomarkers present in prostate and ovarian cancer, stroke, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and fungal infections.
The team is hoping that the biosensors are versatile enough to test for diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV.
It was a European collaboration of researchers and commercial partners in a 2.7 million Euro project called ELISHA, which developed the technology. ELISHA was co-ordinated by Dr Paul Millner from the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, and managed by colleague Dr Tim Gibson.
"We believe this to be the next generation diagnostic testing. We can now detect almost any analyte faster, cheaper and more easily than the current accepted testing methodology," said Millner.
Right now, blood and urine are tested for disease markers using a method called ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immunosorbant Assay), which was developed in the 1970s. The process takes an average of two hours to complete, is costly and can only be performed by highly trained staff.
The researchers believe that their new technology - which provides results in 15 minutes or less - could be developed into a small device the size of a mobile phone into which different sensor chips could be inserted, depending on the disease being tested for.
"We've designed simple instrumentation to make the biosensors easy to use and understand. They'll work in a format similar to the glucose biosensor testing kits that diabetics currently use," said Millner.