Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blood tests 2.0: finger-stick and microneedle array

The farther future could include smartpatches - non-invasive, invisible, continuously-worn health self-monitoring skin patches. In the nearer future, a killer app for synthetic biology and other new chemistry and biology 2.0 methods could be the ability to create one's own vitamin supplements, and possibly innovate low-cost, non-prescription based finger-stick blood tests, and saliva and urine panels for self-testing.

Barrier to Citizen Science
A significant barrier to the wide-scale adoption of citizen science in the context of health self-management, intervention exploration, and preventive medicine implementation is the high cost, inconvenience and discomfort involved in obtaining traditional lab tests. While many tests may be ordered in a direct-to-consumer fashion through DirectLabs, the Life Extension Foundation, and other websites, it still costs ~$100 per test.

The challenge is to identify the requisite chemistry and processes involved and see if it may be possible to make simple consumer-friendly finger-stick blood test cartridges, similar to the glucose and HDL measurement kits sold at drug stores, which self-experimenters may perform at home or at community biolabs. Continuous monitoring via microneedle arrays would be useful for self-tracking glucose levels and other markers. For example, there could be consumer-targeted versions of the devices being developed by Orsense.

Figure 1. Non-invasive glucose monitoring device from Orsense

Community labs and high-end home labs may include the (CLIA-waived) Cholestech LDX machine (~$2,000 for the machine + ~$5-10 per measurement cassette) which can assess eight different lipid profiles.

Figure 2. Cholestech LDX finger-stick lipid measurement device

There is an urgent opportunity to expand the range of finger-stick measurement tests. Below is a Wish List of basic tests for one-off or comprehensive panel delivery.

Traditional Blood markers:
  • Homocysteine
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Folate
  • Vitamin D
  • Creatinine
  • eGFR
  • Cortisol
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Aldosterone
  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol

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