Method Developed at the Technion Accelerates Blood Test Analysis by About 98%

July 22, 2020

Researchers at the Technion have developed a new method for rapid and inexpensive analysis of the chemical composition of blood samples, which may hasten the early diagnosis of diseases. The first application to be tested will be the early detection of various cancerous tumors based on blood tests.

The innovative technology, which was published in Nature Communications, was developed by Professor Tomer Shlomi and doctoral students Shoval Lagziel and Boris Sarvin. It is based on a unique combination of mass spectrometry and computational methods developed by the research group.

A mass spectrometer is a common device used to determine the concentrations of molecules in biological samples. Testing using this device typically requires a preliminary process called chromatography that entails the separation of the materials in the sample according to chemical properties.

Chromatography, which increases the sensitivity of the spectrometric measurement, is time-consuming and therefore makes the process expensive. One sample typically costs hundreds of dollars. As a result, it is desirable to find a way to skip the chromatographic step without compromising the sensitivity of the analysis, that is, the ability to identify many molecules and quantify their concentrations.

In the current study, Prof. Shlomi’s research group presents a method that skips the chromatography step and makes it possible to directly use mass spectrometry without significantly impairing the quality of the analysis. The test is completed in just 30 seconds, thus shortening the process by about 98% and reducing its cost by a similar rate.

According to Prof. Shlomi, the novelty lies in the use of a computational method developed by the research group. They employ a method that identifies optimal working configurations in the mass spectrometer, which allows for a high-sensitivity analysis for specific types of biological samples. The computational analysis also corrects the measured raw information and accurately quantifies concentrations of thousands of molecules in blood samples.

Prof. Tomer Shlomi is a faculty member in the Faculties of Computer Science and Biology and a member of the Lorry I. Lokey Center for Life Sciences and Engineering. The research was funded by an ERC grant and by the Israel Science Foundation.

For more than a century, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology has pioneered in science and technology education and delivered world-changing impact. Proudly a global university, the Technion has long leveraged boundary-crossing collaborations to advance breakthrough research and technologies. Now with a presence in three countries, the Technion will prepare the next generation of global innovators. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world, innovating in fields from cancer research and sustainable energy to quantum computing and computer science to do good around the world.

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