Cornell University Researchers Develop Point-Of-Care Device That Delivers 10 Minute Stroke Diagnosis

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Researchers from Cornell University’s Baker Institute for Animal Health and Department of Biomedical Engineering, along with colleagues from State University of New York, and the New York Presbyterian Hospital have developed a point-of-care device that uses nanoparticles to quickly detect key biomarkers in the blood that could one day help doctors rapidly diagnosis emergency conditions. The technology behind the device has broad implications, as it could theoretically be used for rapid detection of a wide variety of conditions, including stroke, heart attack, acute brain injury, and lung cancers.

To test the device, the team chose to focus on the biomarker Neuro-Specific Enolase (NSE), which appears in higher concentrations in stroke patients. In addition to helping diagnose stroke, earlier studies have found that “serum levels of NSE in first few days of ischemic stroke can serve as a useful marker to predict stroke severity and early functional outcome.” The team coated nanoparticles with immobilized enzymes that naturally bind to NSE. The nanoparticles are then exposed to a small drop of blood, where they are able to detect NSE. When a nanoparticle binds to an NSE molecule, it is designed to emit light that researchers can then measure. The more light emitting from a sample, the higher the NSE concentration levels in the blood.

The team tested the device on both animals and humans, comparing the results to the industry’s current gold standard testing method, ELISA. In a study published in PLOS One, researchers describe testing rat stroke models, as well as geriatric human patients. In those tests, the device performed comparably to ELISA, but took just 10 minutes to deliver a result, compared to the hours an ELISA array takes to return a result.

For stroke patients, treatment decisions are made in minutes and the longer it takes to confirm a stroke diagnosis, the longer the patient has to wait before being given critical medication. Each hour that passes without treatment correlates with higher long-term disability rates and higher mortality rates. While the presence of NSE alone is not enough to conclusively diagnose stroke, researchers are hopeful that the testing method will help ED doctors screen potential stroke cases more accurately and effectively.


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