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Colour-changing molecule helps epilepsy patients

Newly-published research in the Nature Chemical Biology journal from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland has shown how a simple new molecule-based solution can easily and quickly show how much of a drug is in a patient’s system.

Used as a new system of monitoring responses to treatment amongst epilepsy patients, it has demonstrated great potential in early studies. It works by binding to a drug that is already circulating in the patient’s bloodstream and changes colour accordingly. When the targeted drug is absent, a red light is created which changed to blue in proportion to the concentration of the medication.

Doctors, or even the epilepsy patients themselves can record the signal very easily by placing a drop of blood onto a piece of paper, putting it in a dark box and photographing it with a conventional camera. The picture can then be analysed by colour-measuring software to generate a calculation, and compared to the standard drug-concentration curve. The sensor molecule can be used with virtually any kind of drug, as it is simply just a way of measuring the concentration of medication in a patient’s blood.

To test their theorised system, the EPFL scientists used six commericially available drugs, including an anti-epileptic drug, three immunosuppressants, an anti-arrhythmic therapy and an anti-cancer agent. In all six cases, the signal the sensor molecule gave off was shown to be accurate and very stable.

Rudolf Gross, one of the scientists working on the team behind the study said: “This system is a cheap, effective solution for customising drug dosage where the patient can take a pinprick of blood and can have an immediate reading of free drug concentration in their system – much like diabetics do now for blood glucose.”

Following the publication of the study, Mr Griss will be developing a company in order to streamline and commercialise the innovative invention, meaning it could be made available for patient use in the near future.

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