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May 15, 2014
 |  BC Innovations  |  Tools & Techniques

Blood test for asthma

Asthma is notoriously difficult to accurately diagnose because its symptoms can be transient and common tests are susceptible to user error. A University of Wisconsin-Madison team believes that it can improve the process by using a microfluidic device that analyzes the mobility of inflammatory cells contained in a single drop of blood.1

Salus Discovery LLC has exclusively licensed the technology and is seeking development partners.

Asthma is diagnosed using a combination of qualitative and quantitative assessments. Qualitative measures typically include surveys of patient symptoms and medical history, whereas quantitative measures include spirometry, which can measure lung function and airway constriction, and the nitric oxide test, which relies on elevated nitric oxide in the breath as a marker of airway inflammation.

Because quantitative tests require the presence of symptoms at the time of the test, they can sometimes report false-negative results. In addition, compliance for airway tests can be difficult in young children.

Shawn Aaron, a professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, told SciBXthat current asthma diagnostic methods cause both under- and overdiagnosis. About 30% of treated patients do not actually have asthma, and the diagnostic criteria also miss a significant proportion of actual patients.

There are other well-known indicators of asthma, but they are difficult to measure noninvasively. These include an increase in numbers of immune cells, such as eosinophils and neutrophils, in bronchoalveolar lavage samples.2,3

Researchers have also shown that inflammatory cells from patients with asthma can behave differently than cells isolated from healthy individuals.

David Beebe and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison hypothesized that in addition to increases in the levels of inflammatory cells in the lungs of patients with...

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