Protein-coated gold electrode to test people for gluten intolerance

A protein-coated gold electrode to test people for gluten intolerance has been devised by German scientists.

The news is reported in the latest edition of the Royal Society of Chemistry journal The Analyst.

Drs Thomas Balkenhol and Fred Lisdat and a team at the University of Applied Sciences, Wildau, have invented the sensor that detects antibodies involved in coeliac disease.

The disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten - found in wheat, rye and barley - that prevents the absorption of essential nutrients in the gut.

The method works by immobilising gliadins - proteins found in gluten - on the surface of gold electrodes. People with coeliac disease produce antigliadin antibodies in response to gluten.

When the gold electrodes are immersed in blood serum samples from celiac sufferers, these antibodies bind to the gliadins. The electrical properties of the electrodes then change in proportion to antibody concentration.

The team have transferred their system to screen-printed electrodes - which will allow the sensors to be mass produced.

Dr Lisdat now wants to further develop the sensors to pick up another type of antibody implicated in coeliac disease - anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies.

He said: “Being able to detect both antibodies will guarantee improved sensitivity and specificity of the test.”

The team also want to extend the technique to other kinds of biochemical detection.

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