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New microchip promises to streamline and simplify diabetes diagnoses

By

July 21, 2014

Dr. Brian Feldman is one of the inventors of the testing system

Dr. Brian Feldman is one of the inventors of the testing system

For people who don't already know, here's the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes: the body produces little or no insulin in the case of type 1, and isn't able to utilize the insulin that it does produce in type 2. It's a significant difference, so it's important that patients are diagnosed correctly. Thanks to a new microchip developed by a team at Stanford University led by Dr. Brian Feldman, doing so could soon be quicker, cheaper and easier than ever before.

In order to determine that a patient has type 1 diabetes as opposed to type 2, tests must be performed to confirm the presence of tell-tale antibodies in a sample of their blood. These tests must be performed by extensively-trained personnel in a lab, they involve the use of radioactive materials, take days to get results, and cost hundreds of dollars per test.

Because of these factors, the tests are sometimes not even performed, as it's generally assumed that children will get type 1 and adults will get type 2. In recent years, however, childhood obesity has caused a rise in the number of kids getting type 2, plus there's also a puzzling increase in adults with type 1.

That's where the Stanford chip comes in.

It can be incorporated into a hand-held device that could be used in the field with minimal training, delivering results in minutes. The chip doesn't require any radioactive material, is worth about $20, and can be used for about 15 tests before needing to be replaced. Additionally, it only requires a drop of blood, as opposed to the larger amount needed in the traditional system.

Each chip has a base consisting of glass plates, that are coated in "an array of nanoparticle-sized islands of gold." These particles boost the fluorescent signal emitted by the antibodies, allowing them to be detected. The system has been shown to be just as reliable as the old method, in lab tests conducted on samples from people both with and without diabetes.

The university has filed a patent on the microchip, and is in the process of establishing a spin-off company to commercialize it.

Source: Stanford University

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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