Some cardiac patients that receive a stent are prescribed blood thinners to keep platelets from building up inside it. But for about 70 percent of patients with Asian ancestry and 30 percent of patients with African or European ancestry, a genetic variant will prevent the blood thinner from working properly, says Technology Review's Susan Young. So Canadian biotech company Spartan Bioscience has developed a bedside genetic test that doctors can use to genotype patients and see which of them has the variant that would interfere with the blood thinner before the drug is prescribed, Young says. "Users take a DNA sample from a patient's cheek with a specialized swab, add the sample to a disposable tube, and then place the tube and sample in a proprietary shoebox-sized machine and hit a button," she adds. "Shortly thereafter, the user receives a printout of the patient's genetic status for the drug-processing variant. The whole procedure takes about an hour. Most clinicians currently have to wait several days for similar information to come from off-site genetics testing companies."
Researchers at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute conducted a proof-of-principal trial on the device and found it is effective for detecting the gene variant quickly. In addition, nurses don't need extensive training to use it, Young says. Spartan is also looking for other uses for the technology, like quick detection of infectious diseases or other pharmacogenetic markers.