Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Device Diagnoses Arthritis at the Speed of Dry Cleaning: 2 Hours

news you may not know

Do You Have

Your Ticket?

All right, you knew it was coming. The pain has been getting worse each day, especially when you hobble up the stairs. Fortunately, your left knee seems pretty good and, really, if it weren't for the throbbing in your head, you could probably live with the discomfort in your right knee. All the hopping and bouncing does have its aerobic benefits after all. But, the headaches and, well...

Look, you love your husband. You just can't stand the constant wheedling any longer. Pain is a piece of cake, but this is diabolical. Does he have no other interests in life? Must he be your constant companion, lurking about each corner, barking and chirping as he scampers about picking up this and that, maliciously fawning over you with "Here, let me" and "Oh, honey, it's too much for you" or some such other drivel? You used to be a strong woman, but now... And, where did these headaches come from? You never used to... "Honey, here, let me." Ah, yes - it all makes sense now.

Watching your husband in the rearview mirror, the radio blaring, you feel a strange sense of peace settle about your weary soul as you roar down the street. You're tempted to crack a smile, but think better of it, and redouble your focus. You know what you have to do. You screech to a halt, toss open the door and march inside the Dry Cleaning in a Dash. You toss the bundle in the counter and announce, "OK, I want the works. Double starch on the shirts, mend the hem on the skirt and give me the FAP - I'll be back in 2 hours."

FAP? Ah, that would be a Full Arthritis Panel, capable of determining the root cause of your pain in the knee. At a dry cleaners? Well, that may be a stretch, but the two-hour-special may be the diagnostic wave of the future.

Scientists in Germany have developed a diagnostic device capable of delivering high-speed arthritis diagnoses. This is a major breakthrough and offers real benefits to both doctors and patients. Current diagnostic tests to determine underlying causes of arthritis may take several weeks and, if initial tests come back negative, additional testing adds to the ordeal. What's a doctor to do? Treat, of course. But, when the diagnosis is unclear, many treatments are ineffective at best and harmful at worst.

Enter the Fraunhofer Mobile Laboratory (FML).

Fraunhofer Institute, in cooperation with others, is testing a compact, portable, high-speed diagnostic device that will bring long diagnostic waits to a screaming halt. The breadbox-sized device contains a biochip, a small plastic wafer holding a hundred antigen dots and a set of fluid distributor mechanisms. The antigen dots, each about the size of a un-popped popcorn kernel, represent the likely suspects in the underlying arthritic process, including common pathogens and viruses. A positive reaction to an antigen dot indicates the blood sample contains a reactive antibody, previously produced in an attempt to fight off the offending antigen. Case closed, diagnosis determined - let the, appropriate and accurate, treatment begin.

All right, it seems like the right time - you not only smile, you chuckle a bit as you wheel back into the drive. Ah, it's been a most fruitful couple hours. The dry cleaning looks great, the line at the pharmacy wasn't half bad and, if all goes according to plan, the pain in your knee should be gone in a day or two. If only, you muse, you could say the same about that other persistent pain...

To read more about this developing technology, see this from ScienceDaily.


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