Integrated Diagnostics: Top Innovative Company in Biomedicine

Integrated Diagnostics is one of 10 biomedicine companies included in Technology Review’s 50 Most Innovative Companies (TR50) for 2012 [1].

Integrated Diagnostics

New Breathalyzer Checks for Signs of Disease

A new breath analyzer called the Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer has the capacity to check for a variety of biomarkers, or biological indicators, of disease. The breathalyzer, invented by Dr. Perena Gouma of Stony Brook University, uses a sensitive ceramic chip to detect molecules in exhaled air that are only present in the case of particular disease processes. For instance, the concentration of ammonia in the breath gives information on how much waste is in the blood, which would allow home hemodialysis patients–hemodialysis is a technique used to clean waste out of the blood in the event of insufficient kidney function–to monitor their treatments. Similarly, the chemical acetone, found in nail polish remover, is a biomarker for uncontrolled diabetes.

The challenge associated with analyzing the breath for signs of disease is that there might be only a few biomarker molecules among billions of total molecules per exhaled breath. Tiny nanowires are responsible for the chip’s sensitivity. Notes Dr. Gouma:

There can be different types of nanowires, each with a tailored arrangement of metal and oxygen atoms along their configuration, so as to capture a particular compound. For example, some nanowires might be able to capture ammonia molecules, while others capture just acetone and others just the nitric oxide. Each of these biomarkers signal a specific disease or metabolic malfunction so a distinct diagnostic breathalyzer can be designed.

Gouma envisions a future in which the device could test for infection as well, noting that the wires could be programmed to detect viruses or bacteria. While the breathalyzer isn’t yet available to the public–testing is still underway–Gouma hopes to see the device hitting the consumer market within a few years.

Source: National Science Foundation

MIT Scientists Demonstrate Memories Reside In Neurons

Neuroscientists — scientists who study the brain — have long attempted to understand the nature of memory. Engrams, or complete memories that are encoded in the brain, now appear to be stored physically as opposed to conceptually, according to research published in the journal Nature [1].

Mouse hippocampus

Amyloid Deposits in Cognitively Normal People May Predict Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

For people free of dementia, abnormal deposits of a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease are associated with increased risk of developing the symptoms of the progressive brain disorder, according to two studies from researchers at Washington University in St. Louis. The studies, primarily funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, linked higher amounts of the protein deposits in dementia-free people with greater risk for developing the disease, and with loss of brain volume and subtle declines in cognitive abilities.

Normal brain vs. Alzheimers brain

NIH to Hold Conference on Family History

People who have family members with certain diseases are more likely to develop those diseases themselves. Indeed, many common disorders, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, have genetic, environmental, behavioral and lifestyle causes that are shared between family members and together contribute to an individual’s risk for developing disease.

A family health history is a written or graphic record of these factors and includes information on diseases and health conditions of biological relatives, the age at diagnosis, and the age and cause of death of deceased family members. Family health history information collected from patients has long been used by healthcare providers in the U.S. as a risk assessment tool, and has gained renewed attention with efforts in personalized medicine. Americans recognize the importance of family history to health. A recent survey found an overwhelming 96% of respondents believe their family history is important for their own health; nevertheless, only 30% have actively collected health information from their relatives to develop a family history [1].

Despite the widespread and longstanding use of family health history, important questions regarding the effectiveness of family history information for disease prediction and improvement of health outcomes remain.