Researchers invent nanotech microchip to diagnose type-1 diabetes

Brian Feldman is one of the inventors of a microchip-based test for diagnosing type-1 diabetes. Norbert von der Groeben

Brian Feldman is one of the inventors of a microchip-based test for diagnosing type-1 diabetes. Norbert von der Groeben

Researchers have invented a cheap, portable, microchip-based test for diagnosing type-1 diabetes that could speed up diagnosis and enable studies of how the disease develops.

An inexpensive, portable, microchip-based test for diagnosing type-1 diabetes could improve patient care worldwide and help researchers better understand the disease, according to the device’s inventors at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Described in a paper published online July 13 inNature Medicine, the test employs nanotechnology to detect type-1 diabetes outside hospital settings. The handheld microchips distinguish between the two main forms of diabetes mellitus, which are both characterized by high blood-sugar levels but have different causes and treatments. Until now, making the distinction has required a slow, expensive test available only in sophisticated health-care settings. The researchers are seeking Food and Drug Administration approval of the device.

“With the new test, not only do we anticipate being able to diagnose diabetes more efficiently and more broadly, we will also understand diabetes better — both the natural history and how new therapies impact the body,” said Brian Feldman, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology and the Bechtel Endowed Faculty Scholar in Pediatric Translational Medicine. Feldman, the senior author of the paper, is also a pediatric endocrinologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Better testing is needed because recent changes in who gets each form of the disease have made it risky to categorize patients based on their age, ethnicity or weight, as was common in the past, and also because of growing evidence that early, aggressive treatment of type-1 diabetes improves patients’ long-term prognoses.

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