Scientists from Imperial College London have developed a new method of testing for diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Current tests only look for one or a couple of biomarkers, but the new method can analyse dozens of biomarkers at once. This means that clinicians can gather more information about a patient’s disease. For example, current tests for heart failure only look for a couple of common proteins, but the new method can detect 40 different types of miRNA molecules, which could be used as a new class of biomarkers. The new test works by mixing a blood sample with DNA ‘barcodes’, which are small tags that attach to different biomarkers. The solution is then analysed using a handheld device made by Oxford Nanopore, which reads the electrical signature from each DNA barcode and identifies the type and concentration of each biomarker. The DNA barcodes used in the test can be custom-made for specific biomarkers. The researchers are currently working with samples from heart failure patients to validate the results, and they believe that this method could provide a wealth of individualized information for patients with a range of conditions.

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