New sensor detects pancreatitis quickly, cheaply

The sensor is built with a 12-cent LED light, aluminium foil, gelatin, milk protein & few other cheap.

Washington: A new low-cost test for acute pancreatitis that gets results much more quickly than existing tests has been developed by scientists. It could be produced for as little as a dollar.
The sensor is built with a 12-cent LED light, aluminium foil, gelatin, milk protein and a few other cheap, easily obtainable materials.

The sensor could help prevent damage from acute pancreatitis, which is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to severe stomach pain, nausea, fever, shock and, in some cases, death, reports the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Pancreas is a gland organ in the digestive and endocrine system of vertebrates. It produces several important hormones, including insulin, glucagon and somatostatin, as well as secreting pancreatic juice containing digestive enzymes that pass to the small intestine.

The sensor, which is about the size of a matchbox, relies on a simple two-step process to diagnose the disease. In step one, a bit of blood extract is dropped onto a layer of gelatin and milk protein, according to a University of Texas statement.

If there are high levels of trypsin, an enzyme that is overabundant in the blood of patients with acute pancreatitis, the trypsin will break down the gelatin in much the same way it breaks down proteins in the stomach.

In step two, a drop of sodium hydroxide (lye) is added. If the trypsin levels were high enough to break down that first barrier, the sodium hydroxide can trickle down to the second barrier, a strip of Reynold`s wrap, and go to work dissolving it.

The foil corrodes, and with both barriers now permeable, a circuit is able to form between a magnesium anode and an iron salt at the cathode. Enough current is generated to light up a red LED. If the LED lights up within an hour, acute pancreatitis is diagnosed.

"In essence, the device is a battery having a trypsin-selective switch" to look for organ failure, write Brian Zaccheo and Richard Crooks, graduate student and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, respectively, at the University of Texas-Austin.


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