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Autonomous cell reporter system for non-invasive real-time blood diagnosis
People around the world are growing awareness to their health condition. To monitor the health condition, a wide range of biomarkers-- special substances in the bloodstream representing the physiological and pathological states-- has been used in clinical diagnoses1. Blood test is one of the most common way for detecting biomarkers but it suffers from several inevitable drawbacks such as invasiveness, time-consuming procedure, demand for medical staff service, non real-time tracking and so on. These disadvantages may discourage people from the periodic medical checkup. Indeed, according to a survey (of 1862 samples) pulled by our team, nearly half of the participants took blood test less than once a five-year frequency (Fig. 1), which is impractical for early detection and early treatment of diseases. In terms of non-invasive real-time health monitoring, great varieties of wearable devices and smartwatches, working as personal daily fitness trackers, have been developed. The global market of wearable medical devices is estimated to reach $35 billion USD soon. However, most of the current devices are only capable of measuring heart rate, steps taken, calories, quality of sleep and a few other personal metrics. These limited diagnosis information provided by current devices cannot precisely represent the physiological states relating to many diseases. To address this long-standing worldwide issue, we aim to develop a new tool, a non-invasive or minimally-invasive real-time tracking system for the level of specific biomarkers in bloodstream.
To achieve the goal, our team proposed Biowatcher, comprising of a bioluminescence-detecting watch (Biowatch) and most importantly engineered reporter cells that enable detection and autonomous report of the level of almost all kinds of biomarkers in bloodstream. The sensing parts of the reporter cells are powered by nanobodies, the single-domain antibody that can be engineered to detect different biomarkers2. Binding of biomarkers on nanobodies triggers our synthetic gene circuits and in turn induces autonomous bioluminescent system3 as a readout for wearable devices to detect. Our real-time bioluminescence-detecting watch, Biowatch, will track the level of risk factors by measuring the bioluminescence intensity and record the data as numbers and graphs. It will send alert to users once the level of the risk factors is too high. Meanwhile, there will be suggestions of nearby hospitals according to the users’ location. The system will also upload and attribute the data to public health analysis under the users’ consent. (Fig. 2)