New biosensors help improve disease diagnosis efficiency

Swiss researchers have recently developed a new type of biosensor using photoprotein, which can accurately measure human metabolite levels with just one drop of blood. It is expected to be the tool of choice for the diagnosis and monitoring of various diseases due to its high accuracy and simple operation.

Metabolites are compounds produced by the body's metabolism, and diseases or damage can cause significant changes in the levels of metabolites in the blood. For example, an increase in blood phenylalanine levels is characteristic of the genetic disease phenylketonuria. Patients with this condition must regularly check for phenylalanine levels in the blood. Current testing methods require blood samples to be delivered to the laboratory, and the results can be delivered to the patient in a few days. This delay complicates the management of the disease.

To this end, researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Germany have developed a method for measuring the concentration of metabolites in blood samples in a matter of minutes. They published a research report in the latest issue of the American journal Science.

Using a light-emitting protein, the researchers have developed a new type of biosensor that can change color through different enzyme-catalyzed reactions, which means that the concentration of metabolites can be determined by analyzing the color of the luminescence. Using different enzyme-catalyzed reactions, the same sensor can measure levels of various metabolites including phenylalanine, glutamic acid, and glucose.

Taking the measurement of phenylalanine levels as an example, a drop of blood is taken from the patient's finger, and then the blood sample is added to the reaction buffer and used for the biosensor-containing test paper. When the phenylalanine is above normal, the light from the sensor changes from blue to red, and this change can be detected with a daily digital camera or smartphone. Finally, the phenylalanine concentration is calculated by color change. The entire process takes only 10 minutes to 15 minutes.

Because the operation is simple and accurate, the patient can test it himself. Researchers are currently looking for ways to further simplify testing and automate operations.

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