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A rapid test for immunosuppressant

To prevent rejection of donor organs after transplants, patients have to take medicines to suppress the immune system for the rest of their lives. These immunosuppressants only work correctly at a certain concen- tration in the blood. Up to now, this level had to be monitored by a doctor.

As part of an inter- disciplinary CTI project, researchers at the HLS are currently developing a rapid test so that in future patients will be able to measure their own medication levels. Over 500 Swiss people had a heart, lung, liver or kidney transplant in 2014 alone. Since the body’s immune system sees a donor organ as alien, it fights it. In the worst cases there is a rejection reaction and the patient may die. To prevent this, patients receive immunosuppressants — medicines that inhibit the immune system — which must be precisely prescribed and checked by the doctor. Daniel Gygax’s team at the Institute of Chemistry and Bioanalysis have therefore been working on a rapid test for two such drugs — Tacrolimus and Ciclosporin. In future, patients will be able to measure their blood immunosuppressant levels in comfort at home, without having to go to the trouble of an outpatient visit every time. The rapid test is being developed by a CTI project led by Gygax, with an interdisciplinary team of chemists, doctors, IT specialists, Bühlmann Laboratories AG and Dorner Health IT Solutions. In order that the test is understood and adopted by patients, Gygax has also brought in psychologists and industrial designers.

The system consists of an applicator for taking blood samples – of which there is already a prototype – and a container where the patient tests the sample. The latter has a test strip with different analysis reagents. “ We use antibodies to determine the level of immunosuppressants and their degradation products. The antibodies are chemically combined with gold or plastic particles”, explains Gygax. “A test strip in the container changes colour depending on the concentration. For some substances though, the discolouration is too faint so we need to use fluorescent markers.” Gygax is enthusiastic about the fact that a mobile phone can be used for the evaluation: “This means that a patient can send their own data to the hospital.”

FHNW School of Life Sciences

FHNW University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland School of Life Sciences Hofackerstrasse 30 CH - 4132 Muttenz
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