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A diagnostic test or procedure is an examination that identifies specific areas of strength and weakness to determine the condition, illness or disease in a person. For instance, physicians may use MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), Electromyography (EMG) or Computer Assisted Tomography (CAT scan to determine if there is impingement of a nerve root by a herniated disc.

The ability and range of diagnostic test continuously evolve as researchers find a way to detect diseases earlier, get more detail and get an accurate diagnosis in many people across all regions of the globe. There are many attempts to find new ways of performing diagnostic tests, but these are the latest developments in the diagnostic technologies.

1. CancerSEEK

Cancer has become such a killer, but researchers have invented another way of testing and detecting eight most frequent types at once. These include the elusive pancreatic and liver cancers that are difficult to detect. As the new technology develops, doctors will one time use it to spot cancers in the early stages even before the onset of symptoms to improve chances of treatment and survival. Cancer SEEK looks for various compounds that could be early signs of cancer from the blood. The compounds it checks include 16 different cancer driver genes with association to tumors and eight proteins.

The intention is to make cancer screening a routine activity so that patients who visit a health facility for an annual physical checkup can get also get a blood screening for cancer at the same time. An additional benefit is that cancer SCREEN appears to have ability for screening for these five cancers for which other screening tests fail to detect.

  • Stomach
  • Ovarian
  • Pancreatic
  • Esophageal
  • Liver

These cancers types can develop without detection because they do not cause symptoms until the time they reach an advanced stage. Sadly at this time, the treating the disease is difficult. The difference between CancerSEEK from recently developed liquid biopsy test is that it uses two types of indicators which are genes and proteins to get results that are more accurate across a broader range of cancers. Liquid biopsy tests only look for cancer markers in the blood.

CancerSEEK tests use an artificial intelligence algorithm for analyzing combinations of genes together with protein biomarkers in a blood sample to identify the type of cancer that someone is likely to have. This method of testing is of much help to the general practitioners who can administer the test and send their patients for additional testing that verifies the result. For instance, if the results of a blood test suggest that a patient could be having stomach cancer, his doctor can recommend that the patient goes for an endoscopy to confirm the results. Similarly tests results showing a likelihood of colon cancer could be a reason to request for colonoscopy.

Paper point –of-care Zika test

Diagnosis and management of Zika virus have more gains if there is proper population screening to detect the symptoms before they develop to cause severe illness. The level of population testing depends on access to user-friendly and low-cost tests that fit in resource-limited settings. It is the reason for researchers from Washington University St. Louis to start developing such a test. The test made of paper costs approximately 10-15 cents. It tests the Zika virus by producing a color change when there is a reaction between the immune globins in the blood of an infected patient reacts with some tiny nanorods on the testing papers. A nanocrystal layer protects the test during storage and shipping.

2. Self-powered paper electrochemical diagnostics

This point of care diagnostics test is for testing some diseases without a need for specialist skills. It is portable, low cost and does not require much infrastructure but will help to improve healthcare in the regions that have limited access to sophisticated lab equipment. Point-of-care diagnostics which are portable, low-cost, and require little infrastructure can help to improve healthcare in regions with limited access to more sophisticated laboratory equipment. The developers are from Purdue University and were targeting users in remote areas or military bases. The devices are easy to carry because they are lightweight and flexible.

3. Mass Spec Pen for Rapid cancer identification

Here is another test for detecting cancer that tries to address one of the biggest challenges in cancer surgery. It is difficult for a surgeon to determine if the surgery removes all the traces of cancer while still preserving much of the healthy tissue as possible. Mass Spen Pen by researchers at The University of Texas attempts to improve the gains of a surgery. It provides accurate identification of the cancerous tissue during surgery in just 10 seconds. Despite the speed, Mass Spec Pen achieves an accuracy of over 96%. The pen works by analyzing the metabolites of the tissue that differ between cancerous and normal cells. This technology is still new, but surgeons are ready to begin testing it as they operate on cancer patients in 2018.

4.Transparent tissues for pathological diagnosis

The conventional methods for pathological diagnosis rely on staining of some thin sections of the patient specimen. Imaging in 3D is to try to overcome some limitations of pathological diagnosis technique. It helps pathologists to detect some of the abnormalities that someone using the initial technology is likely to miss. The results of a recent study demonstrated that clear, unobstructed body/brain imaging cocktail and computation analysis (CUBIC) is efficient in delineating the normal as well as abnormal regions in lymph node and lung tissues. The promising results highlight a potential for 3D histopathology in improving diagnosis procedures.

5. Wearable sweat sensor

Many people may not know that sweat can help in diagnosis, but this new diagnostic test shows that it a bio-fluid for non-invasive diagnostics. It contains various solutes that act as biomarkers for the presence or absence of a disease. A new wearable sweat sensor detects ions and molecules present after stimulation of the skin to produce little amounts of sweat and send a data to an allocated server for analysis. This sensor has been in use in the studies for detecting chloride ions to improve the efficiency in diagnosing cystic fibrosis.

6. Microfluidic chip for predicting preterm birth

Identifying the risk of preterm delivery in pregnant women can help to determine and plan early interventions that assist in delaying childbirth and strengthening the lungs of the fetus to reduce chances of mortality and morbidity. The purpose of the newly developed microfluidic integrated chip is to concentrate, separate and also detect tiny amounts of the P1 peptide in a blood sample. P1 helps to indicate a higher risk of preterm birth. Then eventual use if the chip is a healthcare setting for identifying pregnant women who need and can benefit from medical interventions to prevent the premature birth of their babies.

7. Smartphone TRI Analyzer

Smartphones are one of the many devices that researchers are turning to diagnostic tools. A smartphone is convenient because of the widespread presence, abilities, and simplicity to use.

Researcher from the University of Illinois created the Smartphone accessory that tests liquid samples to determine if there is a disease. It puts a medical testing lab in the palm of a patient’s hand. The spectral analysis devices use a 3D printer and engineering that helps to process samples saliva, blood or urine utilizing the phone flashlight and optics from the camera. A TRI analyzer device transforms camera of the phone into a high performing spectrometer. It illuminates a sample fluid using an internal white LED flash although it can still use an external green laser diode. The light from the sample collects in an optical fiber for guiding into the rear-facing internal camera. The arrangement of the optical components is within a 3D-printed plastic cradle.

The researchers make an effort to maximize on the potential of a Smartphone in a diagnostic test by recently using a TRI Analyzer for performing two tests that people get commercially. The first test was to detect a biomarker with close association to pre-term birth in expectant women .the another test is on newborns for indirect detection of an enzyme that contributes to normal development and growth. The tests had similarity to those that professionals got from clinic grade spectrometer instrumentation.

8.Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) to detect meningitis

A LAMP is an isothermal nucleic acid amplification technique that targets and amplifies a sequence at a constant temperature of 60-65% using two or even three primer sets. It also uses a polymerase with a high strand displacement activity in addition to replication activity. The primers identify six distinct regions on a target gene which adds to the specificity. An extra pair of loop primers further accelerates the reaction. Because of the specific nature of its action, the action of the primers makes the amount of DNA that LAMP produces to be higher than PCR (polymerase chain reaction) based technology amplification in which reaction takes place with a series of temperature steps or cycles.

A quick reaction and accuracy of a LAMP are helpful in detection of meningitis and meningococcal disease that is difficult to diagnose early because the first symptoms mimic those of a common cold. Time is essential for the treatment of meningitis because patients can recover well if it is treated early, but many die due to lack of early treatment. The diagnosis of meningococcal is difficult to detect, and many take place when it is too late considering that diagnostic tests in traditional labs take up to 48 hours before returning results. Some get an assurance that they do not have meningitis only to turn out that they have an infection that early testing did not detect.

9. Blood test to diagnose TB onset by two years

Tuberculosis an infection that occurs due to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) is the leading cause of death that occurs due to an infection by one pathogen. Doctors diagnose as many as 10 million new cases of TB. The team of researchers to develop a simple, affordable and rapid point of care test was led by Gerhard Walz, MMed Ph.D. and head of immunology research at Stellnbosch University South Africa.

Researchers now have developed a blood test that can predict the possibility of contracting TB by up to two years before its onset using a combination of four gene signatures in blood. The name of this signature that combines four genes with an association with inflammatory responses is RISK4. An individual component of this signature might not be sufficient in delivering an accurate diagnosis of prediction but using a combination of the markers improves the accuracy.

RISK4 test concentrate on the people who live with someone with active TB infection with researchers enrolling up to 4,466 HIV-negative participants to give their blood samples. The purpose was to provide primary health clinics with a test and reagents that will be available in a format that they now use for TB diagnosis. The first tests on RISK4 signature took place in South Africa, the Gambia, and Ethiopia but the next step is to take it to another setting with non-African populations to determine its feasibility in providing global near patient test.