Biosensor and reader can test for radiological damage in minutes: Image by S. WangA tiny biochip has the potential to quickly determine whether or not a person has been exposed to dangerous doses of radiation, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which helped develop the device. Though further work on the chip is necessary, the eventual technology is expected to quickly screen exposed persons in the event of a radiological catastrophe.
Currently, in the absense of physical symptoms, which may not occur for several days, a blood test called a dicentric chromosome assay measures chromosomal damage after exposure to radiation, but the results can take up to several days to obtain. The new biochip being developed by a collaboration of radiation biologists, biostatisticians, and bio-engineers from the Berkeley Lab, Stanford University, UC Davis School of Medicine, the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, and the Methodist Hospital Research Institiute, will be able to obtain more thorough information in a matter of minutes, helping to quickly triage emergency patients in the event of a disaster.
In the past several years, Berkeley Lab scientists have been able to identify more than 250 blood proteins that change after exposure to radiation. The new device gives these proteins a platform for expression by electrically sensing the proteins after they have been coated with magnetic nanoparticals.
In its final stage the sensor is expected to be a handheld device that lights up if a person's drop of blood shows he or she needs medical attention. The device has been tested with mice exposed to radiation, and was successful, yielding results for up to seven days after exposure.