More common than diabetes, thyroid disease affects millions of people of all ages. Balanced thyroid hormones levels are necessary for the development of a child’s brain and skeleton. In adults, hyperthyroidism produces symptoms including anxiety, impatience, irritability and depression. Sometimes, it even leads to schizophrenia.
Hypothyroidism’s symptoms include the deterioration of personality and general intellectual capability, memory loss, and depression. Untreated, hypothyroidism can have permanent harmful effects on the brain.
As there is currently no cure for thyroid disease, patients must have their hormones levels monitored once every three or four months. The process is time consuming. Patients get their prescription for the test at their doctor’s office. Go to the lab for their blood analysis. Wait a couple of days for the results then return to the doctor’s office to get their medication adjusted. The process is also expensive. Testing levels for the three thyroid hormones (TSH, T3, T4) can cost up to $300 each time.
Imagine the savings if a test could be done in the doctor’s office at minimal cost.
This is what Dr. Seema Gupta not only imagined, but made real, with her company NanoSpeed Diagnostics (NanoSpeed). Dr. Gupta developed a combined thyroid test that identifies all three hormones levels in less than 15 minutes.
With financial support from Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures (Tech Futures) through its nanoWorks program, the Edmonton-based company initiated work with the Alberta Centre for Advanced MNT Products (ACAMP). ACAMP helped the company fabricate the microfluidic chip that detects thyroid hormones levels.
As a result, NanoSpeed created a lab-on-a-chip that can be used in a doctor’s office. In a single visit, patients can get their blood tested and their medication adjusted. Physicians take a blood drop from the finger, put it on the chip and insert it in the reader. Patients save time, doctors can help more patients, and thyroid-testing costs will be reduced significantly.
Nanospeed is now focused on getting its thyroid-testing device approved by regulatory agencies. Dr. Gupta hopes the product will be launched in the North American, European and Indian markets by the end of 2014.
Dr. Gupta sees great potential in lab-on-a-chip technologies. With the increasing interest of health care systems in point-of-care testing, she sees multiple opportunities for the development of new tests, especially for cancer treatment.
NanoSpeed received support from Tech Futures through the Innovation Vouchers, Industry R&D Associates and nanoWorks programs.