UT researcher working on self-tests for a variety of illnesses


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN GUSKY

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE


Posted on April 1, 2013 at 6:26 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 1 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- A University of Texas researcher is working on inexpensive ways for people to make an accurate medical diagnosis of themselves.

The self tests are similar to home pregnancy tests. The goal is to help those without medical training to be able to use low-cost, personalized diagnostics to detect maladies like viruses or other illnesses.

"Wouldn't it be good to know from the onset of a sniffle whether or not you had the flu?" asked Andy Ellington, Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Researchers are hard at work inside the UT Institute for Cellular and Molecular biology. They're working on developing simple and inexpensive tests that will help anyone make an accurate, medical diagnosis of themselves.

"You are the sum of your molecules, as are the pathogens, the viruses and bacteria that infect you," said Ellington.  

Ellington  -- the lead researcher -- has spent the last five years developing simple tests which amplify the signals given off by the molecules inside our bodies.

"If there's a signal in you that says I've got influenza, I've got HIV, I've got tuberculosis; we make the amplifiers for that," said Ellington.

Ellington says because the amplifiers developed in his lab are so good, he sees the self-diagnostic tests being able to check everything from blood, urine or even saliva.  

"We believe we can develop technologies that will greatly expand the number and types of things you can test for," said Ellington. "By doing so we'll be able to give people much more control over their own health care."

Ellington says his self-diagnostic tests could reduce health care costs by eliminating unnecessary doctors visits. Conversely, it can also alert patients to when they require immediate medical attention -- thus reducing health care costs through early detection. 

Ellington will talk about his findings at this Thursday's Hot Science Cool Talks lecture on the UT campus. Click here for more information.


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