Using nanotechnology, researchers have developed the first rapid detector for dopamine, a chemical that is believed to play a role in various diseases such as Parkinson’s, depression and some cancers.
Studies show that too much dopamine could be associated with some cancers, while low dopamine could be associated with Parkinson’s disease and depression. The new technique requires only a few drops of blood, and results are available in minutes instead of hours because no separate lab is necessary to process the sample.
More than half a million people in the United States have Parkinson’s and major episodes of depression affect about 16 million adults a year.
Current methods to detect dopamine are time consuming, require rigorous sample preparation, including blood-plasma separation, as well as specialized laboratory equipment. With this device, however, a few drops of blood on a palm-sized, rectangular chip is all that is needed.
Former methods of dopamine detection require much more time, sample preparations and specialized lab equipment.
Plasma is separated from the blood within the chip. Cerium oxide nanoparticles, which coat the sensor surface, selectively capture dopamine at microscopic levels from the plasma. The capture of dopamine molecules subsequently changes how light is reflected from the sensor and creates an optical readout indicating the level of dopamine.