New device could end blood test agony for thousands

February 23, 2016
New device could end blood test agony for thousands

Patients could be spared the unpleasant ordeal of having blood taken in future thanks to the work of a University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) academic who has devised a new breath testing device.

Professor Tony Killard has created a mass producible sensor which can detect ammonia levels in breath – a breakthrough which could eliminate the use of needles among thousands of patients.

Named AmBeR, the device could help patients with a number of chronic diseases and conditions who regularly need to check their ammonia levels through blood testing.

The technology will allow patients to test their ammonia levels painlessly with greater accuracy, on a more frequent basis and even while at home when a self-testing version of the device is developed.

Professor Killard, head of biomedical sciences at UWE Bristol, said: "Ammonia blood testing is inaccurate and ineffective. There are problems doing this with some conditions, especially where it involves children who have learning difficulties. With those types of patient, it is a major challenge.

"This will give clinicians a tool they don't currently have and it changes where and how often they can do the testing. You can do a test every day if necessary or you could do a test at home – it's quite transformative.

"No one has been able to do ammonia breath testing in a way which is accurate without using a large piece of equipment. There are instruments in existence which can do it but they are not economically viable. The AmBeR device will be more like glucose testing strips where you use the sensor test strip once and throw it away when finished. We are trying to make this a game-changer commercially."

Professor Killard, who has formed a company called BreathDX to market his innovation, has secured funding to explore the application of AmBeR in specific conditions. The device, which is smaller than a shoe box, is now in production and will go into clinical studies in May.

Professor Killard said he was 'humbled' when he realised the impact his work could have.

He said: "We went to some conferences and really saw the daily challenges people and their families with these conditions have. I was humbled by it. We had spent the whole time thinking about the scientific objective but then the human focus comes into sight and you start to think differently - about the value to other people.

"With the feedback we had, we realised how important it could be to them – that places a responsibility on you to deliver something for them."

Professor Killard came up with the idea for the while investigating new sensor materials based on novel nanomaterials technology. He developed a new ammonia sensing material using polyaniline, a polymer which can conduct electricity. By forming it into nanoparticles, he discovered it was extremely sensitive and be could deposited in very thin layers only thousandths of a millimetre thick using low-cost printing technology.

Of his discovery, he said: "That was kind of the eureka moment. What we had was a cluster of new characteristics which allowed us to do new things we couldn't do before. Before, this material (polyaniline) was just a laboratory curiosity to scientists and you would play around with this stuff.

"Now we are looking at commercialising it, which has always been key to our activities - having a societal and economic impact."

Professor Killard said the technology could eventually be used to measure other trace breath gases for the non-invasive monitoring of further diseases, including potentially diabetes.

Explore further: Researchers develop paper-thin device to test cholesterol levels

Related Stories

New milestone for device that can 'smell' prostate cancer

February 11, 2016

A research team from the University of Liverpool has reached an important milestone towards creating a urine diagnostic test for prostate cancer that could mean that invasive diagnostic procedures that men currently undergo ...

'Electronic nose' determines food freshness

February 11, 2016

A new device analyzes gas mixtures using semiconductor sensors. Odor is determined by a combination of existing gases in the atmosphere. Researchers have found that the conductivity of a semiconductor probe changes during ...

Thin film device able to measure blood flow in new way

November 2, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with members from institutions in China and the U.S. has announced the development of a thin film device that can be affixed to the skin to measure blood flow. In their paper published in ...

New sensor nanotechnology simplifies disease detection

October 4, 2010

Researchers at Stony Brook University have developed a new sensor nanotechnology that could revolutionize personalized medicine by making it possible to instantly detect and monitor disease by simply exhaling once into a ...

Recommended for you

Artificial photosynthesis gets big boost from new catalyst

November 20, 2017

A new catalyst created by U of T Engineering researchers brings them one step closer to artificial photosynthesis—a system that, just like plants, would use renewable energy to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into stored chemical ...

Scientific advances can make it easier to recycle plastics

November 17, 2017

Most of the 150 million tons of plastics produced around the world every year end up in landfills, the oceans and elsewhere. Less than 9 percent of plastics are recycled in the United States, rising to about 30 percent in ...

The spliceosome—now available in high definition

November 17, 2017

UCLA researchers have solved the high-resolution structure of a massive cellular machine, the spliceosome, filling the last major gap in our understanding of the RNA splicing process that was previously unclear.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.