The molecule histamine plays a primary role in the anaphylaxis reaction, which is a major cause of illness and death in people with severe allergies. Histamine is a very small molecule composed of only seventeen atoms, making it a challenging target to detect. To date, no diagnostic test exists that can measure histamine levels accurately and quickly enough to confirm when a patient is experiencing an allergic reaction – a lack of knowledge that often costs lives.
The Wyss Institute is developing a novel electronic microsensor that is capable of detecting clinically relevant concentrations of histamine and other small molecules within five minutes, offering hope for the 15 million Americans who suffer from allergies. The microsensor is equipped with a first-of-its-kind nanocomposite coating that prevents the non-specific accumulation of blood components on the sensor surface and retains over 80% of its electronic sensitivity, even after being stored for a month in whole human plasma.
In addition, this same histamine detection technology can be used in the hospital or doctors’ offices to quantitatively sense patient responses to allergens during desensitization procedures. The Wyss’ electrochemical sensor platform technology also could be applied to detect a broad spectrum of biomolecules that would be useful for medical applications that extend far beyond anaphylaxis or allergy.
This technology is part of the Wyss Institute’s Project ABBIE, and is undergoing further development.