A new ultra-sensitive test has been designed to detect diseases including HIV and cancer.
According to scientists, the new test may prove 10,000 times more effective than current diagnostic tools.
When a disease begins growing in the body, the immune system responds by producing antibodies.
Retrieving these antibodies out of the blood is one way that scientists infer the presence of a disease.
Fishing the antibodies out of the blood involves designing a molecule that the biomarker will bind to and which is adorned with an identifying “flag.”
Researchers can isolate that flag through a series of specialized chemical reactions know as an immunoassay.
The new technique augments this standard procedure with powerful DNA screening technology.
The chemists have replaced the standard flag with a short strand of DNA, which can then be teased out of the sample using DNA isolation technologies that are far more sensitive than those possible for traditional antibody detections.
The technique was tested against four commercially available U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved tests for a biomarker for thyroid cancer. This technique outperformed the sensitivity of all of them by at least 800 times and up to 10,000 times.
The thyroid cancer test has historically been a fairly challenging immunoassay. It produces a lot of false positives and false negatives, it was not clear if this test would have an advantage.
By identifying the biomarkers of disease at lower concentrations, physicians could possibly detect the disease in the earlier stages.
A clinical trial will help evaluate the technique as a screening tool for HIV.
Early detection and treatment of the virus can help ensure that its effects on the patients are minimized and reduce the chance that it is transmitted to others.
There are hopes that this test will be more effective than the current diagnostics.