Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are developing a dipstick test for caffeine, that will provide consumers with an instantaneous results even from hot beverages. The test is using heat-resistant antibodies from camels and llamas, a camelid animals:
These camelids happen to be among the few creatures whose immune systems can produce antibodies that aren’t destroyed at the high temperatures common to brewed beverages.
The researchers reasoned that if they could create heat-resistant camelid antibodies that reacted to caffeine, they could potentially build a durable assay suitable for use almost anywhere. They gave intramuscular injections of a caffeine-linked protein to three llamas and two camels to elicit an immune response to caffeine. They found that blood from the animals contained antibodies that were heat-stable and reactive to caffeine.
The most stable version of the caffeine-specific antibody, which came from a llama named Very Senorita, recovered 90 percent of its activity after exposure to 194 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees centigrade) – about the temperature of a really hot cup of coffee. A similar antibody produced from mice broke down at 158 degrees Fahrenheit…
“Now that we’ve isolated the sequence of this stable anti-caffeine antibody, we can produce copies in the lab to develop a convenient caffeine test-we don’t need to rely on the animals,” Ladenson says. [Jack H. Ladenson, Ph.D., professor of Clinical Chemistry and director of the Division of Laboratory Medicine -ed.] “And unlike other methods for measuring caffeine, which require large and expensive laboratory equipment, this test is potentially adaptable to a format that people could carry with them…”
Oh, yes. If there’s one thing every coffee addict needs, it’s a coffee llama dipstick to tell them just how potent their latest fix is. We predict whole websites and message boards will spring up around this caffeine detector, with people swapping tips on where to get the strongest coffee.
Incidentally, we think “coffee llama dipstick” is one of the most pleasing phrases in English.
The press release…