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Single Drop Blood Test For Rapid Stroke Diagnosis

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The researchers say with further development, the tool could be used in hospital emergency rooms to diagnose stroke along with other conditions such as concussion, dementia and even heart disease and cancer.

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December 23, 2015 | by Sarah Massey, M.Sc.

After a patient has a stroke, physicians must begin treatment as quickly as possible to minimize damage. Researchers at Cornell University's Baker Institute for Animal Health, have developed a stroke diagnosis device that takes only ten minutes and a small drop of the patient’s blood to generate a result.

Currently, stroke diagnosis takes up to three hours and requires skilled technicians to perform the lab work. These are hours that stroke victims could be receiving treatment, as earlier intervention has been shown to lead to better outcomes.

The study – which was published in the journal, PLOS One – demonstrated the proof of principal for the medical diagnostic device. The researchers say with further development, the tool could be used in hospital emergency rooms to diagnose stroke along with other conditions such as concussion, dementia and even heart disease and cancer.

According to Roy Cohen, a Research Scientist at the Baker Institute, and the study’s lead author, the technology successfully marries small size and simplicity – two features necessary for a bedside diagnostic device. “Three quarters of stroke patients suffer from ischemic stroke - a blockage of a blood vessel in the brain. In those cases, time is of the essence, because there is a good drug available, but for a successful outcome it has to be given within three or four hours after the onset of symptoms,” said Cohen.

“By the time someone identifies the symptoms, gets to the hospital, and sits in the emergency room you don't have much time to obtain the full benefit of this drug. Enhancing the speed of diagnosis could save many people from suffering lasting effects of ischemic stroke.”



The technology works to diagnosis stroke – an event in which blood flow to the brain is interrupted – by detecting a number of biomarkers present in the blood of patients who have experienced the condition. The device uses nanoparticle-bound enzymes that interact with the biomarkers and produce a luminescent signal.

The researchers illustrated their proof of concept by detecting neuron-specific enolase (NSE), a biomarker found in higher concentrations in the blood of patients who have experienced stroke or a similar neurological event. By measuring the intensity of the light-producing reaction, the researchers were able to determine the amount of NSE in the sample – even at very small levels of the biomarker.

According to study co-author Alex Travis, Associate Professor of Reproductive Biology at the Baker Institute for Animal Health, the idea to bind the enzymes to nanoparticles was inspired by tethered enzymes found on the tails of sperm cells. These enzymes are responsible for generating the energy that powers the flagellum, and the fact that they are physically attached to the tail of the sperm means that the process of converting a sugar substrate into usable energy is efficient.

“This system could be tailored to detect multiple biomarkers. That's the strength of the technique,” said Travis. “You could assemble a microfluidic card based on this technology that could detect ten biomarkers in different wells, and the readout would be the same for each one: light.” The researchers plan on working with a private company to further develop the stroke diagnostic test and eventually assess its efficacy in a human clinical trial.

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Keywords: Stroke, Blood Test, Diagnostic Device


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