April 10 - Swiss researchers have developed a portable device that can detect common allergens in a drop of blood within half an hour. Called the Abioscope, the machine is designed to provide a fast, accurate and non-invasive alternative to conventional allergy testing. Jim Drury reports.
The portable Abioscope could soon make conventional allergy testing methods obsolete. Its developer Nicolas Durand says, rather than taking days or even weeks to produce results, the Abioscope can identify allergens in a drop of blood in less than half an hour. SOUNDBITE (English) NICOLAS DURAND, CEO AND FOUNDER OF ABIONIC, SAYING: "The whole process timing is around half an hour. So it means that the patient will be taken charge by an assistant. It's a very small drop of blood that is extracted from his fingertip and then you run the test, which is approximately between 15 and 20 minutes, and then you have a discussion with the physician in order to understand exactly what is causing the allergies." The Abioscope analyses the patient's blood after it's been mixed with drops of a re-agent - a compound added to produce a chemical reaction. Abionic CTO Ivan Marki says the mixture is placed into the machine's reader containing ten biochips filled with different allergens. SOUNDBITE (English) IVAN MARKI, CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER AND CO-FOUNDER OF ABIONIC, SAYING: "We have that sample from the patient that enters into these fluidic chips and we have an interaction of the sample with the biology that is put into the chip and because it's so confined we have a very rapid interaction and that's why we can reduce the time of the test in a drastic amount." Proteins in the biochip are marked with a chemical substance that emits light when excited by the device's laser, indicating the potency of each allergen. After 20 minutes the results appear on screen. A doctor records the result's unique bar code on his smartphone or tablet to take back to the patient. Durand says Abioscope is more accurate and far less invasive than conventtional testing. SOUNDBITE (English) NICOLAS DURAND, CEO AND FOUNDER OF ABIONIC, SAYING: "Physicians are depositing some drop of liquids on your arms or on your back and they have to prick your skin with needles, so that's pretty uncomfortable and that's a very non-accurate method. The alternative is to take a few millilitres of your blood and send the samples to analysis laboratories, but in this case it will take days or even weeks before getting to the results and that's exactly what we would like to change with our system." Twelve common allergens, such as cat and dog hair, grass, and milk can be detected. But the company is developing a broader range and hopes the Abioscope will be commercially available this year.