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Malaria Can Now Be Diagnosed Using Magnetic Fields

Update Date: Sep 01, 2014 10:00 AM EDT
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Researchers have devised a new way to diagnose malaria with the help of magnetic resonance relaxometry (MRR), according to a new study.

MRR, a close cousin of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), will be used to detect a parasitic waste product in the blood of infected patients. 

According to researchers, the technique could offer a more reliable way to detect malaria. 

"There is real potential to make this into a field-deployable system, especially since you don't need any kind of labels or dye. It's based on a naturally occurring biomarker that does not require any biochemical processing of samples" said senior author Jongyoon Han, a professor of electrical engineering and biological engineering at MIT, in the press release. 

The newly devised SMART system detects a parasitic waste product called hemozoin. 

"What we are trying to really measure is how the hydrogen's nuclear magnetic resonance is affected by the proximity of other magnetic particles," Han added.

The system only requires about 10 microliters of blood which can be obtained with a finger prick. This makes the procedure minimally invasive and much easier for health care workers than drawing blood intravenously. 

 "This system can be built at a very low cost, relative to the million-dollar MRI machines used in a hospital," said paper's lead author is Weng Kung Peng, a research scientist at SMART, in the press release. "Furthermore, since this technique does not rely on expensive labeling with chemical reagents, we are able to get each diagnostic test done at a cost of less than 10 cents."

The study has been published in the journal Nature Medicine. 

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