Combating Disease Adapting personal glucose monitors to detect DNA

Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Combating Disease: Adapting personal glucose monitors to detect DNA

April 30, 2012


Adapting personal glucose monitors
to detect DNA.
Credit: iStock.

Summary

An inexpensive device used by millions of people with
diabetes could be adapted into a home DNA detector
that enables individuals to perform home tests for
viruses and bacteria in human body fluids, in food and
in other substances, scientists are reporting in a new
study. The report on this adaptation of the ubiquitous
personal glucose monitor, typically used to test
blood sugar levels, appears in ACS’ journal Analytical
Chemistry
.

Today’s solution addresses the development of an inexpensive device used by millions of people with diabetes that could be adapted into a home detector for many diseases. Using this device enables individuals to perform home tests for viruses and bacteria in human body fluids, in food and in other substances, as well cancers and toxins. A report on this study appears in Analytical Chemistry.

Yi Lu, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, explains.

“Developing low-cost tests for the public to use for early diagnosis of diseases, checking the safety of food and other point-of-care testing is one of the greatest challenges in chemistry, because most of these tests now take days and use sophisticated laboratory instruments. Meeting this challenge could improve health and reduce costs, especially for people in developing countries or rural areas in developed countries with scant medical resources.”

Lu and the research team have been responding to this challenge with adaptations to the home glucose monitor, an essential device for millions of people with diabetes that’s inexpensive and simple to use.

“Specifically, we adapted a glucose meter to monitor many non-glucose targets, such as TB, prostate cancer, hepatitis, as well heavy metal ions and organic toxins. Our test takes place in a liquid containing sucrose (a sugar that isn’t detected by glucose meters). First, the above targets are captured and concentrated on magnetic beads by an antibody or DNA that can recognize the targets selectively at very low concentration. Then, we add another antibody or DNA that is conjugated to an enzyme called invertase. The invertase, isolated from bakers’ yeast, turns the table sugar into glucose, which the glucose meter can measure.”

How effective is the test?

“We have detected those disease targets at concentrations comparable to or in some cases even better than many current measurement systems, which are much more expensive and time-consuming.”

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges. Today’s podcast was written by Michael Bernstein. I’m Caroline Trupp Gil at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

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Yi Lu, Ph.D.
University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign,
Urbana and Champaign, Illinois