- Quicker detection should lead to more people being treated – saving lives
- Rapid, inexpensive and easy to administer, test could be available by 2018
- Uses plates coated with enzymes to detect chemicals that rise in the blood after a stroke
A ten-minute test that detects strokes from just a few drops of blood is being developed by scientists.
Quicker detection should lead to more people being treated – saving lives.
Early treatment would also cut the odds of disability, increasing patients’ chances of being able to continue living independently.
Rapid, inexpensive and easy to administer, the test could be a game-changer, say its inventors.
Stroke is Britain’s third-biggest killer and the main cause of severe disability in Britain.
At least 450,000 men and women are living with problems from muscle weakness and paralysis to loss of co-ordination and balance caused by an interruption in the blood supply to the brain.
Drug treatment can limit the damage from the most common form of stroke, which is caused by a clot in the brain, but it has to be given within three or four hours of falling ill.
And it can’t be started without a hospital scan, as the drug could prove fatal for patients with a second, less common-type of stroke caused by bleeds in the brain.
This means that it is crucial to distinguish between the two and do it quickly.
The new test, which could be done in an ambulance and cost just several pounds, could save precious time, allowing many more patients to be treated.
The brainchild of scientists at Cornell University in the US, it uses plates coated with enzymes to detect chemicals that rise in the blood after a stroke.
When the enzymes bind to the chemicals, they trigger a chain reaction that leads to the emission of light.
Blood tests have been developed for stroke in the past but typically take several hours, meaning they are not widely used.
The combination of technology in the Cornell test gives results in under ten minutes and uses just a few drops of blood.
Currently, it can pick up a chemical known to be made when the brain is damaged by stroke and other illness.
It is hoped that by adapting it to detect several key chemicals, it will be able to zero in on strokes and distinguish between the two types.
It may even be suitable for a paramedic to administer in the back of an ambulance, the journal PLOS ONE reports.
Researcher Alex Travis said the first test could be available by 2018 – saving and improving lives.
Roy Cohen, the study’s lead author, said: ‘Three-quarters of stroke patients suffer from ischemic stroke – a blockage of a blood vessel in the brain.
‘In those cases, time is of the essence, because there is a good drug available, but for a successful outcome it has to be given within three or four hours after the onset of symptoms.
‘By the time someone identifies the symptoms, gets to the hospital, and sits in the emergency room you don’t have much time to obtain the full benefit of this drug.
‘This technology is potentially game-changing.’
Dr Shamim Quadir, of the Stroke Association, said: ‘A stroke is a medical emergency so rapid diagnosis and treatment is essential. The sooner that treatment is given, the less damage is done to the brain.
‘Currently, too many people arrive at hospital outside of the window for treatment or have an unknown time of onset of their stroke.’
However, he cautioned that the blood test is still at an early stage in development.
It is hoped the test could be adapted to detect other conditions, including concussion, heart disease and some dementias and cancers.