Testing for Disease Just Got Easier

It’s no secret that chronic disease are among the leading causes of death in the United States. Heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are among a few of the diseases that claim the lives of thousands of people each year, sicken millions more, and cost billions of dollars in healthcare costs.

Being able to detect and treat the warning signs of these diseases is crucial to improving quality of life. But all too often, chronic diseases go undetected, sometimes because testing methods are cumbersome and expensive.

But what if it wasn’t? What if there was a way to detect the risk for disease or presence of harmful substances that wasn’t expensive or invasive. Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a testing method that can detect disease by using your breath and small square of plastic with chip sensors designed to recognize diseases.

In their first test, researchers were able to design a plastic chip that could detect elevated levels of ammonia from a breath sample that could identify the early warning signs of kidney disease.

Lead researcher Ying Diao says this is just the beginning of what this technology can do. Diao says the plastic chips made with a 3-D printer, can also be designed to detect other risk factors for disease, which can be critical for treating a person before a minor health condition turns into a serious and much more costly health problem. The possibilities are endless.

"We would like to be able to detect multiple compounds at once, like a chemical fingerprint," says Diao. "It's useful because in disease conditions, multiple markers will usually change concentration at once. By mapping out the chemical fingerprints and how they change, we can more accurately point to signs of potential health issues."

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