Researchers are developing early detection technology for Type 1 diabetes that can accurately predict whether a child is at risk of the chronic disease. The researchers hope their detection kit could one day be used as a standard test for newborns, catching the disease in its earliest stages and enabling the development of treatments to delay or even prevent its onset.

Prof. Vipul Bansal with the nanoparticle-coated sensor. (Credit: RMIT)

The technology uses a microchip and sensor to detect markers in the blood that can identify the early loss of beta cells, which people with type 1 diabetes cannot produce.

Researchers have already developed a proof-of-concept sensor coated with special nanoparticles. The sensor can reliably detect the presence of select biomarkers, changing color if a particular molecule is present in the blood. The next stage is to expand the sensor’s capabilities and miniaturize it onto a microfluidic chip about the size of a postage stamp.

A microfluidic chip contains tiny channels and pumps that can precisely control fluid. While blood is notoriously difficult to handle in microfluidic systems, researchers have pioneered technology that avoids the need for special processing. The final result would be a simple and reliable tool for health professionals.

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