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Fields & Applications Sensors, Clinical, Polymers

Faster Fibrosis Diagnosis

“Will Peveler wanted to visit my lab to learn about array-based sensing. In the meantime, he started working in William Rosenberg’s lab, where he learned about unmet needs in terms of liver disease diagnostics, in particular the lack of point of care (POC) tools,” says Vincent Rotello, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts. The unmet need – and the high mortality rate associated with liver diseases – inspired a collaborative effort from the UK and US to develop a rapid diagnostic technique for fibrosis (1).

The new test involves obtaining a small amount of blood (approximately 40 μL) via a fingerstick, adding fluorescent-coated polymers, and then using the enhanced liver fibrosis immunosensing platform – a “chemical nose” – to sniff out serum biomarkers of fibrosis such as albumin, immunoglobulin, transferrin, fibrinogen, and alpha-1-antitrypsin. The simple process takes only 45 minutes and is relatively inexpensive – providing a new diagnostic for the developing world, according to Rotello. “Closer to home, the sensor should enable regular monitoring of liver health using minute quantities of blood,” he says. “This straightforward testing would identify issues well before symptoms develop, allowing much more effective preventative and therapeutic strategies to be employed.”

The technique checks the speed and pricing boxes, but how will it fit into existing workflows? Rotello says it isn’t far from being pathologist-ready; the researchers are currently streamlining the platform for clinical and POC use, as well as working toward further validating and implementing their technique in various settings. It’s not a one-man job, though, and Rotello emphasizes the effort required of everyone on the team: “This project provides an example where a hammer-builder, such as myself, can find an important nail through collaboration.”

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  1. WJ Peveler et al., “A rapid and robust diagnostic for liver fibrosis using a multichannel polymer sensor array”,
  2. Adv Mater, [Epub ahead of print] (2018).
  3. doi: 10.1002/adma.201800634.
About the Author
William Aryitey

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