Abionic, a Swiss company, has received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registration for detecting allergies to cats, dogs, trees, and grasses. The firm’s nanotechnology-focused assay can yield results in as little as five minutes, with some tests taking up to 20 minutes, and uses just a single drop of blood (no this isn’t a Theranos spinoff). This in vitro testing significantly reduces the wait time of the current in vitro standard, ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), which can take days to deliver results. It’s also faster than the other traditional method of direct skin testing, which takes 15-20 minutes and can lead to uncomfortable scratches and itchy bumps for the patient.
In general, allergies are caused indirectly by blood proteins called IgE that bind specifically to allergens, such as tree pollens. When bound, these IgE-allergen complexes go off to activate cells of the immune system that then cause symptoms of sneezing, swelling, itchiness, and other such annoying allergy factors. There are many types of IgE proteins, and only ones specific to allergens will cause allergies. Patients without a tree pollen-specific IgE, for example, won’t have allergies to tree pollens.
Abionic works by detecting these IgE complexes. The test mixes fluorescent proteins that bind all IgEs with the patient’s blood. This sample is loaded into the IVD Aeroallergens Capsule, and is drawn through a separator to eventually pass through a capture area full of allergens. If the patient has the allergy-causing IgEs, the sample will stick to the allergens in this area and give a strong fluorescent signal. Specifically, the system tests for the following allergens: Fel d 1 (cat dander), Can f 1 (dog dander), Bet v 1 (birch pollen), Phl p 5 (timothy grass pollen), and Der p 1 (house dust mite).
The testing is done on the benchtop using the abioSCOPE, a desktop-sized machine that loads the samples like a CD player, and interfaces with the doctor via a modern touchscreen interface.
Abionic’s system (abioSCOPE + IVD Capsule) currently has the European CE Mark and is set to be available in the US in 2018. Soon you’ll be able to know quickly whether or not you can really stop and smell the flowers.
Hat tip: Engadget…