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Diagnostics Omics, COVID-19, Screening and monitoring, Technology and innovation

Bite-Sized Breakthroughs

Detect, Diagnose, Delay
A new test has been developed to diagnose amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia. The test detects the presence of biomarker TDP-43 even in the earliest disease stages when levels are low (1). Early diagnosis may enable drug development to stop or delay progression of disease.

Redefining Antibody Testing
SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing has so far lacked specificity, but scientists believe a new two-step definition – dual-antibody positivity – will improve screening. Under this definition, antibodies are measured as a dual-positive response against the receptor binding domain and nucleocapsid proteins of SARS-CoV-2 (2).

Peripheral Predictors
Up to half of patients with rheumatoid arthritis prove unresponsive to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs – although the reasons are unknown. Now, researchers have measured blood samples from responsive and unresponsive patients and found that levels of peripheral blood specialized pro-resolving mediators may predict treatment response (3).

Turn Up the Heat
Researchers have developed a new test to diagnose sickle cell disease in one minute with high sensitivity and precision (4). The Acousto Thermal Shift Assay uses ultrasound to heat protein samples and measure the rate of disintegration to distinguish between sickle cell and normal proteins.

Autoantibody Hierarchy
The TEDDY study has discovered risk factors that predict which children may develop type 1 diabetes (T1D) following their first autoantibody appearance (5). Risk factors include age, family history of T1D, emergence of a second autoantibody, and appearance of a second antibody within one year of the first.

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  1. C Scialò et al., Brain Commun, 14, fcaa142 (2020). PMID: 33094285.
  2. M Hippich et al., Med, [Online ahead of print] (2020). PMID: 33163984.
  3. EA Gomez et al., Nat Commun, 11, 5420 (2020). PMID: 33110080.
  4. Y Ding et al., Small, 16, e20003506 (2020). PMID: 32893496.
  5. K Vehik et al., Diabetes Care, 43, 2066 (2020). PMID: 32641373.

About the Author

Olivia Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

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