(KCPW News) USTAR scientists are working on technology that could give a diagnosis with the swipe of card. The medical card would use the same technology that allows computers to access information on hard drives and MP3 players, says University of Utah chemist Marc Porter.
"What you would do is you would take your card, your sample coupon, and then simply expose that to a small volume of sample, it'd be saliva, urine, blood serum. You do that exposure step to the coupon for a short period of time. You then rinse that off, and then expose it to a solution that contains the magnetic nano-particles. You let that sit for a short period of time, then rinse that off and then you read that with the GMR," Porter says.
The GMR is an ultrasensitive machine that detects magnetic footprints left by antibodies that are produced when a body is fighting off an illness. The device to read these medical cards is now about the size of a personal computer. But one day Porter says it could be as small as a credit card scanner. Information form the cards could easily be uploaded to a personal medical file, something health policy experts see as an integral part of medical care in the future. Porter says the cards could be updated regularly with new samples and used to track personal health.
"The underlying premise is the earlier you could detect a change, or the appearance of a marker, that'd be indicative of disease, the earlier you can take steps to counter the problem," Porter says. "And as we all know with cancer and many other diseases, the earlier you begin treatment, the greater possibility for successful outcome."
Porter expects the technology could be used to test farm animals for diseases in two years. And a version for humans is expected to be ready in five years. The study will be published Saturday in the journal "Analytical Chemistry."