Medical Technology News

Paper Strip Tests for Hypothyroidism

Student researchers at Rice University have developed a paper strip test for hypothyroidism, similar to those that are commonly used for COVID-19 testing. Babies with congenital hypothyroidism require prompt diagnosis and treatment, but in many parts of the world a lack of healthcare resources can mean that the condition can go undiagnosed for long periods, affecting a child’s development. This paper-based device may be well suited for large screening programs in such countries, as it is inexpensive and easy to use, requiring just a small drop of blood. The device consists of a wicking pad that is impregnated with antibodies against thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), providing a clear strip that can be assessed visually in the case of high levels of TSH, a hallmark of hypothyroidism.

Thyroxine, a thyroid hormone, is crucial for childhood development, but some children are born with an underdeveloped or completely absent thyroid gland. Identifying this early is important in avoiding lifelong developmental issues, but many low-resource countries lack a routine screening program.

“Thyroxine (T4) is responsible for the development of all body systems, including brain development, muscle development and so on,” said Alison Maniace, a researcher involved in the study. “A lack of T4 early in life will cause irreversible developmental delays if left untreated, which is why early-life diagnosis is so crucial.” “At birth, babies with congenital hypothyroidism look normal, there’s no obvious sign of this disorder, so the main roadblock to treatment in low-resource settings is the lack of widespread screening programs,” added Vanshika Jhonsa, another researcher involved in the project.

As the thyroid gland is impaired in those with hypothyroidism, leading to a lack of thyroxine, the body produces high levels of TSH in an attempt to compensate. This was the target of these student researchers, who took inspiration from at-home COVID-19 tests to develop a similar technology to detect TSH in small blood samples.

Their test strip device consists of a 3D printed case around a nitrocellulose wicking strip that has been studded with antibodies against TSH, providing a clear line that can be observed with the naked eye if the hormone is present at high levels.

The researchers have described the technology as having “the potential to impact the lives of thousands of people every year, especially in low-resource areas, allowing for early treatment and preventing the permanent disabilities that can result from untreated congenital hypothyroidism.”

More info here from the test designers: Test TSH…

Via: Rice University