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New method could speed up blood tests

Scientists at Roche and ETH Zurich have developed a new method for analysing liquids. In the future, physicians could perform complex blood or urine tests in their own practice instead of sending them to specialist laboratories.

ETH
Bild: ETH Zürich / Andreas Frutiger

Scientists at the Basel-based pharmaceutical company Roche and the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich have developed a new analysis method that has the potential to revolutionize medical diagnostics: physicians could perform complex blood and urine tests easily and quickly in their own practice, eliminating the need to send the samples to specialist laboratories. 

The technique uses a chip and a laser light. According to an ETH statement, the chip has a specially coated surface made up of tiny dots with a specific striped pattern, which the scientists call a “mologram”. The new diagnostic technique is called “focal molography”.

In order to determine a particular protein dissolved in the blood (the “key”), it must dock on to a suitable antibody (the “lock”). The new technique makes the “key in the lock” visible in one step instead of the typical two, resulting in a diagnosis that is substantially faster and far less complicated than previous analysis methods 

“We expect that this technology will enable more laboratory tests to be performed directly in the doctors’ office in the future rather than in a specialist laboratory. And in the distant future, patients may even be able to use the technology at home,” said ETH professor Janos Vörös.

The new method is so fast that it could also be of interest for basic biological research, such as to examine how quickly one biochemical molecule binds to another. Other applications could include quality control for drinking water treatment or process monitoring in the biotechnological industry.

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