A few tiny spots could revolutionize the way doctors test for and diagnose a range of health problems. Researchers at Swansea University, in the UK, have developed a way of putting live antibodies into an ink, which can then be printed on to thin sheets of a specially-coated plastic. This could mean carrying out tests in a GP’s surgery rather than sending samples to a lab.
Dr Chris Philips, a researcher at Swansea Uuniversity, said: “The project has been running for about two years and we’re at the stage where we can happily print antibodies onto pretty much any plastic that we want.”
Using the new printed antibodies, doctors can expose the plastic strip to a blood or urine sample and the results can be read almost immediately by looking at how the dots change colour, or by using a handheld device. The technology could be useful in health centres and GPs’ surgeries, where patients could get almost instantaneous diagnoses. In the future scientists even foresee patients using this technology at home, by themselves.
Dr David Bailey, GP, said: “For some things I think it would be very, very helpful – for when you’re screening for cholesterol, or possibly for slightly low blood counts and things like that, where you’re not too worried about the absolute final accuracy. That might well be very helpful for patients because you can actually tell them the answer there and then when you see them, rather than bringing them back later.”
These new tests could also be used in emergency humanitarian situations and in remote areas.