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Stanford researchers have created a microchip that can detect diabetes

Researchers from the University of Stanford have developed a microchip that could make it much less costly to diagnose type-1 diabetes. The debilitating disease often strikes children, and the quicker it’s detected, the easier it is to treat. The current test, however, is a time-consuming, costly burden for both hospitals and patients, requiring radioactive materials and several days of time. The new chip uses gold nanoparticles that cause fluorescent materials to glow when telltale antibodies are detected. Unlike the old tests, only a pinprick of blood is required, and the $20 chip can be reused up to 15 times. Such diagnostics could compliment other diabetes research, like Google’s glucose detecting smart contacts, along with potential treatments or even cures. Researchers said the test will be particularly useful in countries where the standard test is too expensive, and are now working to launch it globally.

An inexpensive, portable, microchip-based test for diagnosing type-1 diabetes could improve patient care worldwide and help researchers better understand the disease, according to the device’s inventors at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Described in a paper published online July 13 inNature Medicine, the test employs nanotechnology to detect type-1 diabetes outside hospital settings. The handheld microchips distinguish between the two main forms of diabetes mellitus, which are both characterized by high blood-sugar levels but have different causes and treatments. Until now, making the distinction has required a slow, expensive test available only in sophisticated health-care settings. The researchers are seeking Food and Drug Administration approval of the device. “With the new test, not only do we anticipate being able to diagnose diabetes more efficiently and more broadly, we will also understand diabetes better — both the natural history and how new therapies impact the body,” said Brian Feldman, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology and the Bechtel Endowed Faculty Scholar in Pediatric Translational Medicine. Feldman, the senior author of the paper, is also a pediatric endocrinologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

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