Keeping you up to date on recent headlines in diagnostics

Tel Aviv University researchers use MRI to detect soldier's chances of suffering from PTSD . . . According to a recent Washington Post study, nearly 20% of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are psychologically damaged. Among them are a substantial number with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the high rate of suicide among PTSD sufferers has become unacceptable to Army commanders and the soldiers' families. Thanks to new research from Tel Aviv University (Tel Aviv, Israel) however, doctors will now be able to forecast a soldier's chances of falling prey to PTSD, with the chance of intervening to prevent military-related suicides. Prof. Talma Hendler of TAU's Department of Psychology and Psychiatry and the founding director of the Tel Aviv Functional Brain Center has developed a new predictive tool for detecting at-risk soldiers. The tool will permit clinicians to diagnose and treat these soldiers immediately before the stressors of combat lead to chronic psychological problems. Studying a group of 50 Israeli soldiers – trained medics who experienced extreme stress in live combat zones – Hendler and her graduate student Roee Admon in collaboration with Col. Gad Lubin from the Israel Defense Forces were able to predict which soldiers would develop significant increases in stress symptoms such as mood decline, intrusive thoughts, and sleep disturbance. This May, Hendler was given a special award from the U.S. Army Commanding General of Medical Research for her advances. The research was published in the August issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Hendler's research shows functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can be used to forecast which soldiers might be vulnerable to stress psychopathology in the future. The non-invasive imaging method records the brain activity of military personnel before they enter active duty. Using this baseline as a reference, the researchers can predict which soldier is more prone to exhibit after exposure combat-related stress symptoms – symptoms that can trigger PTSD or major depression. The TAU researchers measured the levels of "stress symptoms" twice: first when the soldiers were drafted, then again a year-and-a-half later, during their active duty in combat units. The soldiers were also asked a series of questions evaluating their experience in the army. With this data, researchers developed predictive brain measurements for whether or not a soldier would develop stress. Having such an early biological marker, says Hendler, means that diagnosis and treatment can begin immediately following exposure to situational trauma. It is the first fMRI-based study in the world to measure brain activation under stress over a long period of time with respect to prior to stress.

Arrayit receives patent certificate in China for VIP tech . . . Arrayit (Sunnyvale, California) a proprietary life sciences technology leader, reported that the company received a patent certificate from the most populous country on the planet, the People's Republic of China. The patent covers Dr. Mark Schena's microarray methods of genotyping multiple patient samples, commonly referred to as Arrayit's "Variation Identification Platform" (VIP) technology. Arrayit VIP is a universal platform for deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)-based genetic screening, testing, diagnostics, genotyping and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis. In simple terms, VIP allows clinical laboratories to examine DNA samples from as many as 80,000 individuals with a single test rather than relying on limited "one test per patient" techniques. China is the world's largest marketplace, and Arrayit sees nearly unlimited diagnostics sales potential in this emerging region. "VIP is well suited for analyzing DNA from large populations in a rapid, affordable and highly accurate manner," states Rene Schena, CEO and co-founder of Arrayit Corp. "We look forward to introducing VIP technology to the People's Republic." VIP is a versatile testing platform that allows scientists and medical doctors to screen mass numbers of humans for the presence of genetic markers, as well as for viral and bacterial infections. VIP also empowers the analysis of livestock, poultry and crop plants. This is a very critical aspect of VIP, as it allows the tracing of disease origins from agents such as the H1N1 flu strain. VIP could clearly become the gold standard for genetic and infectious disease detection and management. Arrayit has obtained VIP patents in a long list of countries, and the China issuance represents a significant milestone for the company.

Union Diagnostics to diversify investments outside of present business focus . . . According to the information released through the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Union Diagnostics (Lagos, Nigeria) reported that it is investing in a wide range of subsidiaries, some of which are unrelated to its present business focus. The new line of business, are the health, fast food and real and property sectors of the economy. It is also not been revealed where the company plans to source the fund for the investment- whether it is from bank facilities, internally generated revenue or if there are plans to access equity capital of whatever form from the market. The company (formerly Tejuosho Diagnostics) also notified the exchange of acquisition of facilities in Victoria Island, Lagos and Kano, thereby further increasing its number of branches and customer reach. Speaking immediately after the company was admitted onto the Exchange's Daily Official List, Dr. Olusola Akinniyi, Consultant Gynaecologist and chief executive of Union Diagnostics said the company plans to become the leading diagnostic company across the West Africa sub-region, with a vision to become a global player. From just a staff operating from the premier office in Tejuosho, Yaba, Lagos, he put the company's staff strength as of then at 302 regular employees, aside from an array of consultants employed in teaching hospitals across the country. The company, at the time, he added, had 15 branches across 22 States, with plans to hit 22 outlets nationwide by that year-end, it is not clear whether the target was attained, owing to the global financial crisis that led to the slump in the value of the Naira to other global currencies. Among services rendered by Union Diagnostics include ultra sound imaging, laboratory services, X-ray imaging, Union Diagnostics now offers services ranging from electro-cardio-graphy, cardio topography, computerized renal dialysis, DNA testing and mobile diagnostic units.

New biomarkers improve the detection of AMI . . . Recent studies reveal a novel and promising way for doctors to conclusively ensure that a patient is having or not having an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in a timely and accurate manner saving time and money according to research by Jacquelline Partarrieu of the European Society of Cardiology (Sophia Antipolis, France). In the assessment of patients presenting with chest pain and suspected AMI doctors rely on detailed patient assessment, the ECG, and the measurement of cardiac troponins (specific markers for dying cells in the heart). AMI is the cause of death in more persons worldwide than any other disease. With effective treatment within our grasp, accurate and rapid diagnosis is of major medical and economic importance. With the development of blood tests depicting either cardiac troponin I or cardiac troponin T, the only current biomarkers thought to be unique to the heart, the diagnosis of AMI has been veritably revolutionised. In a patient presenting with chest pain, a rise in cardiac troponin has become a mandatory feature for the clinical diagnosis of AMI. Unfortunately, current cardiac troponin assays have one major limitation in common with their predecessor (CK-MB): it takes 3 hours after symptom onset until cardiac troponin becomes detectable. This is a major problem for doctors and causes diagnostic uncertainty particularly in patients presenting within the first hours from chest pain onset. Recently, data from large multicenter studies have become available that demonstrate for the first time the impact of two novel biomarkers and therefore two novel approaches in the early diagnosis of AMI: sensitive cardiac troponin assays and copeptin, a marker of endogenous stress, in combination with standard cardiac troponin. Both approaches seem to largely overcome the sensitivity deficit of current standard cardiac troponin. The more sensitive the cardiac troponin assay used, the smaller the number of dying myocardial cells necessary for this signal to be detected. When sensitive cardiac troponin assays are used in conjunction with a clinical assessment and ECG, they will substantially reduce the percentage of patients in whom the diagnosis is uncertain after the first cardiac troponin measurement and for whom continuous ECG monitoring and serial blood sampling is necessary. The cost savings associated with this increase in early diagnostic accuracy might be substantial.

— Compiled by Omar Ford, MDD