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Rapid diagnosis of diseases with a new blood test
A new blood test promises to accelerate the correct diagnosis of many clinical pictures such as leukemia, malaria, bacterial or viral infections. This can lead to a faster and more precise start of therapy.
One of the most important diagnostic tools in medicine
Blood tests are one of the most important diagnostic tools in medicine. A laboratory examination of the blood picture allows conclusions to be drawn about existing diseases. Scientists have developed better and better tests in recent years. For example, a blood test redesigned by US researchers can detect many types of cancer. Another test developed by Swiss scientists can even predict the success of immunotherapy against cancer. And German researchers are now using a new blood test together with colleagues from other European countries, which can help to diagnose diseases such as malaria or leukemia more quickly.
Information about the number of white blood cells is often not enough
When you are sick and see a doctor, it is often not obvious what exactly the cause is - what causes fever, nausea, shortness of breath or other symptoms. It is important to find this out quickly so that the right action can be taken.
One of the first steps is to get a blood sample and count how many of the different blood cells are in it. This is called a complete blood count, and the information it provides has been surprisingly useful.
For example, a large number of certain white blood cells can show that the body is fighting an infection.
But there can be several reasons why the number of white blood cells has increased, so that this information alone is often not sufficient for a specific diagnosis.
Real-time deformability cytometry
There are many hundreds of possible tests that can complement the results of a complete blood count. These can, for example, identify bacteria or measure the concentration of certain molecules in the blood.
But which of these possible tests gives the important clue that reveals the cause of the disease?
This is difficult to predict. Although each test helps narrow down the final diagnosis, it is becoming more expensive and time consuming, so not everyone can try it out.
But quick action is often important when it comes to treating an illness.
Can we get more crucial information from the first blood test by measuring other properties of the blood cells?
A team of researchers from Dresden is now showing that this is possible with the help of a technique known as “real-time deformability cytometry” (RT-DC) (real-time deformability cytometry).
Correct diagnosis of many clinical pictures
Prof. Dr. Jochen Guck, research group leader at the Biotechnology Center (BIOTEC) at the Technical University (TU) Dresden, as well as medical colleagues from the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden and partner institutes from Dresden, Cambridge (Great Britain), Glasgow (Great Britain) and Stockholm (Sweden) use the technology, to examine thousands of cells in a drop of blood for unusual appearance and deformability in just a few minutes.
This new blood test promises to accelerate the correct diagnosis of many clinical pictures such as leukemia, malaria, bacterial or viral infections, which in turn can lead to a faster and more accurate start of therapy.
In the specialist magazine "eLife", the experts report on the method that forces blood cells in a small drop of blood to flow extremely quickly through a narrow microfluidic channel while they are being recorded by a fast camera.
A computer algorithm can then analyze the size and stiffness of the blood cells in real time.
The research team shows that this approach can detect characteristic changes that affect blood cells as a result of malaria, spherocytosis, bacterial and viral infections, and leukemia.
In addition, many thousands of blood cells can be measured in just a few minutes - fast enough to be suitable as a diagnostic test.
Tests for a variety of blood disorders
"The 36,000-fold increase in measurement throughput from 100 cells / hour with previous techniques for measuring cell stiffness to now 1,000 cells / second with the technology used here, which we have achieved in recent years, was already remarkable," said Guck in one Message.
“But seeing how RT-DC is actually being applied to real-world problems and improving the diagnosis of many diseases is really gratifying. It is the culmination of a research vision that I have been pursuing for almost 20 years. ”
Based on these findings, specific diagnostic tests for a variety of blood disorders can now be developed.
The approach could also be used to test which drugs should be used to treat a particular disease and to monitor whether treatment is progressing as planned. (ad)