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Illinois Chemists Extend Functions of Glucose Meters

Diabetes Test (NIH)

(National Institutes of Health)

The inexpensive handheld glucose meters familiar to diabetics can now perform more diagnostic tests, based on research by chemistry faculty at University of Illinois at Champaign. Their findings appear in the online edition of the journal Nature Chemistry (paid subscription required).

Chemistry professor Yi Lu and postdoc Yu Xiang found that glucose meters can be used as simple, portable, and inexpensive meters for a number of target molecules in blood, serum, water, or food. But as configured, the meters respond to only one chemical: glucose. To detect other targets, the researchers coupled the current technology with a class of molecular sensors called functional DNA sensors.

Functional DNA sensors use short segments of DNA that bind to specific targets. They have been used with complex and more expensive lab equipment, but Lu and Xiang saw the potential for equipping pocket glucose meters to detect functional DNA sensors as well.

DNA or RNA segments, fixed on magnetic particles, are bound to the enzyme invertase, which can catalyze the conversion of sucrose — common table sugar — to glucose. The user adds a sample of blood, serum, or water to the functional DNA sensor to test for drugs, disease markers, contaminants, or other molecules.

When the target molecule binds to the DNA or RNA, invertase is released into the solution. After removing the magnetic particle by a magnet, the glucose level of the sample rises in proportion to the amount of invertase released, so the user then can employ a glucose meter to quantify the target molecule in the original sample.

The two-step method can be used to detect any kind of molecule that a functional DNA or RNA can bind. Lu and Xiang demonstrated the use of functional DNA with glucose meters to detect cocaine, the disease marker interferon, adenosine, and uranium. They are working on combining the two steps now needed for the process into one, to make it easier for users.

Read more:Engineers Build Compact Diagnostic Biosensor

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