Veterans Affairs

Novel ulcerative colitis screening tool

Rapid and cost-effective method for detecting disease that eliminates the need for biopsies and intrusive testing

Medical & Biotechnology

The Department of Veterans Affairs is offering a new medical technology to businesses that would deliver it commercially as a product or service.

VA funded researchers have identified a screening method using the biomarker mannose as distinguishing colitic from the non-colitic samples and controls. The screening technique includes the testing of blood serum using Attenuated Total Reflectance Fourier Transform Infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy for the detection of mannose. ATR-FTIR is sensitive to the bond vibrations of the molecular composition of the sample and requires minimal sample preparation. Many IR spectrometers can be modified to utilize ATR and its ease of use has led to significant adoption across science disciplines.

Inflammatory disorders of the gastrointestinal tract are caused by environmental or genetic factors. Some of the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis are debilitating and can lead to life-threatening complications such as colorectal cancer. Assessment of intestinal inflammation in IBD remains a difficult challenge. Currently, the clinical diagnosis of IBD is achieved through colonoscopy which is not ideal for regular monitoring of disease activity. The procedure is expensive and invasive requiring sedation with the risk of complications. Thus, there is a need for new, low risk, simple, inexpensive, and objective tools for IBD diagnostics, especially for annual checkups.

The technology can be further developed into a personalized diagnostic tool in which patient-to-patient differences in molecular signatures would allow the assessment of disease status and personalized drug management. The research team anticipates that this technology could be integrated into a portable device such as a glucometer that a patient would wear to monitor multiple health parameters at the point-of-care. The technology may facilitate the creation of bedside technologies for diagnostics and treatment monitoring for various other medical conditions such as arthritis, viral or bacterial infections, allergies as well as IBD. Work is ongoing to determine the specificity of diagnosis to other IBDs such as collagenous and lymphocytic colitis and Crohn’s disease.

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