New sensor technologies have given rise to a faster and cheaper test for cystic fibrosis. Researchers at Dublin City University in Ireland have developed a diagnostic instrument that fits around a patient’s wrist like a watch and produces results within 30 minutes. The device stimulates sweating by passing a chemical over the skin, then collects sweat samples and sends them to a separate unit where an array of sensors simultaneously measures sodium, chloride and potassium levels-which are significantly elevated in patients with the disease. The data is then fed to a laptop computer for analysis. While standard tests also use sweat samples, each ion must be analyzed separately using different techniques, a process that can take up to a day. According to Dublin City chemist Dermot Diamond, the ultimate goal is to integrate the sampling device and the sensors into a single unit equipped with a radio transmitter to send data to a remote computer for analysis.
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