Scientists at Ohio State University have developed a simple, cheap testing strip which can detect cancer and other diseases from a few drops of blood. They hope this new home testing kit will be available in the next few years. It will mean that checking for cancer will be as simple as checking your blood sugar or taking a home pregnancy test.

The researchers, led by Dr Abraham Badu-Tawiah, have developed paper strips containing small synthetic chemical probes which carry a positive charge. These charges help identify biomarkers of certain diseases such as cancer and malaria when analysed by a handheld mass spectrometer.

Dr Badu-Tawiah said: “To get tested, all a person would have to do is put a drop of blood on the paper strip, fold it in half, put it in an envelope and mail it.”

The advantage of this new testing method is that it allows people to test themselves as frequently as they want, without worrying about waiting for hospital appointments.

This could be particularly helpful for cancer patients having completed treatment as it offers them the option of checking for relapses as and when they wanted rather than being limited to their 6-12 monthly check-ups. It could also help individuals with a strong family history of cancer to regularly test themselves as an additional safety net to the national screening programmes.

“We want to empower people. If you care at all about your health and you have reason to worry about a condition, then you don’t want to wait until you get sick to go to the hospital. You could test yourself as often as you want” added Dr Badu-Tawiah.

He hopes to be able to test the strips in a clinical setting within three years. In the meantime, Dr BAdu-Tawiah and his team are working to make the tests more sensitive, in the hope one day they could require either saliva or urine to produce the same result.

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