University of Adelaide researchers have developed a world-first optical sensor that can detect vitamin B12 in diluted human blood — a first step towards a low-cost, portable, broad scale vitamin B12 deficiency test. Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Such a device would help overcome the limitations of current testing methods which are time-consuming and costly. It would also enable the tracking of vitamin B12 levels in high-risk patients and early intervention.
The sensor is still at proof-of-concept stage but, with development, has wide-reaching potential applications.
“Currently our device could not aid in diagnosing vitamin B12 deficiency in a general practice setting,” says Dr Georgios Tsiminis, Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide. “However, this is the first time a rapid technique based on optical spectroscopy has been shown to be able to detect vitamin B12 in human blood serum. We believe this is a very promising first step towards achieving this goal.”
How it works
The optical sensor measurement of B12 in human blood takes less than a minute and requires minimum preparation. This is the first demonstration of vitamin B12 being measured in human blood serum without the need for a full laboratory test.
The sensor uses an optical measuring technique called Raman spectroscopy which produces a unique optical fingerprint of a target molecule, in this case vitamin B12.
“Our method provides a realistic basis for a system that is portable, cost-effective, and affords rapid results, along the lines of the pin-prick test for diabetes,” says Dr Tsiminis.
“Time and cost limitations currently mean that regular and frequent B12 measurements are not being carried out. Having such a device could make this testing routine, potentially having a real impact on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
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Source: University of Adelaide