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Chip Device Developed to Quickly Test for Type 1 Diabetes

Brian Feldman holds chip device

Brian Feldman holds chip device for type 1 diabetes testing (Norbert von der Groeben, Stanford University)

14 July 2014. Medical researchers at Stanford University in California invented a small, handheld microchip that more quickly and easily tests for type 1 diabetes than current methods. The team led by Stanford pediatric endocrinologist Brian Feldman published its results online yesterday in the journal Nature Medicine (paid subscription required). They are also starting a company to bring their invention to market.

Type 1 diabetes is an inherited auto-immune disorder where the body does not produce insulin, and is diagnosed primary in children or young adults. With the the recent increase in childhood obesity, however, it’s becoming more difficult to tell the difference just by the age of patients between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which is often the result of obesity in people much older. Current testing methods for auto-antibodies — the aberrant molecules that prevent creation of insulin — are labor-intensive, expensive (several hundred dollars, say the authors), use radioactive materials, and require up to 7 days for a lab to turn around results.

Thus, there’s a need for a quicker, inexpensive method to determine if a person, particularly a child, with diabetes has auto-antibodies, since it can determine the type of disease and treatments prescribed. The technology developed by Feldman’s team uses microchips from glass plates coated with gold nanoparticles that interact with near infrared light in a fluorescent effect that illuminates in the presence of the auto-antibodies.

The researchers tested the chip with blood samples from people newly diagnosed with diabetes, as well as those without diabetes. The tests showed a high sensitivity for type 1 diabetes antibodies and also identified other biomarkers for the disorder. The team compared the results to current diagnostic methods with the same subjects for validation.

The authors estimated the chip will cost $20 to produce, and one chip can be used up to 15 times. The chip also requires a pin-prick amount of blood, much less than needed by current methods.

The university has filed for U.S. patents on the chip technology and its use to screen for type 1 diabetes auto-antibodies. Members of the Stanford team are also forming a company to develop a commercial version of the test for review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Feldman believes the new diagnostic method is so easy and inexpensive, it can also be used to screen for auto-antibodies in the population at large. “With the new test, not only do we anticipate being able to diagnose diabetes more efficiently and more broadly,” says Feldman in a university statement,” we will also understand diabetes better, both the natural history and how new therapies impact the body.”

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