Philips Research Targets Instant Blood Tests

Posted by: Girlie

Philips Research Targets Instant Blood Tests - 10/05/05 02:12 AM

Two research projects by Philips Electronics aim to make testing of blood samples for diseases instantaneous, to allow earlier and more effective treatment, researchers said on Tuesday.

At an innovation fair in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, Philips presented a prototype biosensor that the company hopes can eventually be built into a handheld device for doctors to perform standard blood tests on the spot.

"It is all about early diagnostics," said Philips scientist Wendy Dittmer, adding that researchers envisage a device that would have replaceable cartridges to test for various diseases.

Doctors would put a drop of blood on the sensor and immediately get a positive or negative response, avoiding the need to send off blood samples to a laboratory with the results coming back only days later.

Dittmer said the finished product, still three to five years of development work away, could allow testing for certain bacteria or viruses or for proteins that indicate a high risk of a heart attack.

Philips has identified medical equipment as its new growth engine as it generates more reliable profits than the volatile chip and consumer electronics activities.

LASER LIGHT TO DETECT MALARIA

A second research project is targeted at the developing world, with the specific aim to diagnose malaria more reliably.

The mosquito-borne disease strikes up to 500 million people a year, killing between 2 million and 3 million, 90 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

It kills an African child every 30 seconds and strikes many pregnant women, according to the United Nations Organization, whose goal is to halve the disease's toll by 2010.

Malaria is hard to diagnose from symptoms alone and the best tools now available in areas with few laboratories are biochemical test strips similar to pregnancy tests.

But heat and humidity can damage these strips, said Philips researcher Markus Laubscher, whose project involves optical detection.

The method is to aim laser light at a drop of blood and look for a specific light pattern emitted by malaria pigment in response.

Laubscher foresees a handheld device that would analyze blood and give a result within minutes. If the research goes well, this could be only two or three years away, he said.

While Laubscher hopes his research will lead to a faster and more reliable diagnosis of malaria, this is only the first step.

There is a shortage of available funds for resources to treat the disease.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a conduit for rich nations' aid to combat the three diseases, has said it would cost $3 billion a year to control malaria, but that it only had $1.2 billion to spend over two years.

Both of the Philips research projects receive public funding, from the Dutch economy ministry and the European Commission, respectively.

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