Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Heart Attack Saliva Test

PostedJune 1, 2008

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Randy Atkins:  If you think you're having a heart attack, the first test is an EKG.  But John McDevitt, of the University of Texas, says it misses up to half the cases.

John McDevitt:  If you're not diagnosed, then you're not treated aggressively in that first step.

Randy Atkins:  Certain proteins produced by your body in response to a heart attack are another sign, but McDevitt says blood tests can take too long.  So he's engineered system that uses a little spit.

John McDevitt:  The saliva-based test can look at these protein biomarkers in less than fifteen minutes.

Randy Atkins:  Your saliva drops into a tiny well on a card that slides into a toaster-size analyzer.  It then washes across a series of micro-beads that capture four specific proteins and color them with fluorescent dyes read by a video chip.  

John McDevitt:  The combination of these four creates a signature that tells us healthy or it tells us diseased.

Randy Atkins:  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, 103.5 FM, WTOP Radio.

The devices will be tested in ambulances this summer, and could be widely available in two to five years.