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Outside the Lab Analytical science, Biochemistry and molecular biology, Genetics and epigenetics, Oncology, Technology and innovation, Screening and monitoring, Omics

Quick Hits

One in 50 patients who take an interferon-β (IFN-β) biologic to treat multiple sclerosis have adverse side effects that cause liver injury; up to 60 percent present with abnormal biochemical liver tests. Although the treatment benefits many, the detriment to these patients cannot be overlooked – so a group of researchers hope to help with new biomarkers for liver injury caused by IFN-β (1). These biomarkers may make it possible to predict whether a patient is susceptible to liver injury.

Just a Breath Away

A new diagnostic for pancreatic cancer may come from an unlikely source: your breath! A study of volatile organic compounds in breath has found that they act as novel biomarkers to detect the disease (2). GC/MS analysis of exhaled air can allow diagnosticians to identify patients with pancreatic cancer with 81 percent sensitivity.

A Swallowable Substitute

The standard protocol for diagnosing small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and similar gastrointestinal tract disorders requires a breath test that evaluates intestinal gases – but the test often lacks accuracy. A swallowable capsule measured hydrogen concentration – associated with GI diseases – over 3,000 times higher than a breath test, resulting in a higher signal-to-noise ratio and subsequently a more precise diagnosis (3).

Familial Heart Care

A review of existing scientific literature on non-syndromic thoracic aortic disease (NS-TAD) has shown that familial screening may benefit populations. The findings showed that associated gene mutations were found in 33 percent of first-degree relatives and 24 percent of second-degree relatives (4), meaning that relatives of patients diagnosed with sporadic NS-TAD would benefit from genetic screening.

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  1. K Kowalec et al., “Common variation near IRF6 is associated with IFN-β-induced liver injury in multiple sclerosis”, Nat Genet, 50, 1081–1085 (2018). PMID: 30013178.
  2. SR Markar et al., “Profile of exhaled-breath volatile organic compounds to diagnose pancreatic cancer”, Br J Surg, [Epub ahead of print] (2018). PMID: 30019405.
  3. KJ Berean et al., “The safety and sensitivity of a telemetric capsule to monitor gastrointestinal hydrogen production in vivo in health sbjects: a pilot trial comparison to concurrent breath analysis”, Aliment Pharmacol Ther, [Epub ahead of print] (2018). PMID: 30067289.
  4. G Mariscalco et al., “Systemic review of studies that evaluated screening tests in relatives of patients affected by nonsyndromic thoracic aortic disease”, J Am Heart Assoc, 7, e009302 (2018).
About the Author
William Aryitey

My fascination with science, gaming, and writing led to my studying biology at university, while simultaneously working as an online games journalist. After university, I travelled across Europe, working on a novel and developing a game, before finding my way to Texere. As Associate Editor, I’m evolving my loves of science and writing, while continuing to pursue my passion for gaming and creative writing in a personal capacity.

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