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September 27, 2018

Lateral flow assays and precision diagnostics

By Lee Jenkins , Strategic Product Manager

Lateral flow assays offer a fast, simple, and low cost option for precision diagnostics. Find out more about precision diagnostics and how lateral flow technology is enabling the progress of precision health.


Enabling precision health

Precision health offers the opportunity to provide the right treatment to the right person at the right time, based on the specific biological needs of the patient . This approach reduces the risk of rejected and/or ineffective treatments and improves the chances of treatments working.

Precision health spans precision diagnostics, precision medicine and precision monitoring, with the potential to vastly improve the quality of healthcare and the lives of patients with substantial cost savings to healthcare providers.

How close are we?

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at lateral flow assays and how they may be used for precision diagnostics.

Precision diagnostics

Precision diagnostics combines physics, engineering, chemistry and biology to understand and measure what is happening inside a patient to provide data that informs clinical and operational decisions, based on the specific biology of the individual patient. Precision diagnostics help answer the question, what treatment will provide the most benefit and the least side effects for this patient?

What is a lateral flow assay?

Lateral flow assays are simple and reliable antibody-based assays, providing a rapid and accurate method for the detection of specific biomarkers above a detection threshold. Lateral flow assays are sometimes known as ‘dipstick’ assays, with one of the most well-known being a standard, over-the-counter pregnancy test or a simple test for an infectious disease, such as Malaria.

In this type of diagnostic assay, part of a filter matrix is immersed in a sample fluid, such as blood or urine. The sample travels through the material and, in the case of a blood sample, the filter matrix separates the cells from the plasma (Fig. 2). We’ve previously described how depth filters work to separate blood.

As the sample migrates through the lateral flow device it’s subjected to a sandwich or competitive immunoassay to detect the biomarker of interest. In the case of the home pregnancy test, for example, it’s detecting the presence of human chorionic gonadotropion (hCG).

Find out more about lateral flow assays and their development in our Laboratory Filtration knowledge center.

Lateral flow blood separator

Why lateral flow assays for precision diagnostics?

Lateral flow assays have been around for many years now, routinely used by clinicians for point of care testing, and by the general public at home. Their success is down to some key benefits—they’re fast, simple, and low cost, all of which are important factors for a precision diagnostic device.

When compared to other diagnostic tests, such as ELISAs, the benefits of an assay that offers results in seconds from a small sample volume, without the need for complex procedures and costly equipment, are clear. The development of new lateral flow assays can bring these benefits to the growing field of precision diagnostics.

In precision diagnostics, the clinician might use a simple lateral flow device to test for the presence or absence of a biomarker that’s of interest, or to quantitate the biomarker to make informed decisions on personalized treatment.

Lateral flow assays are already well established in healthcare, and they continue to evolve. Advances in multiplexing and increases in sensitivity are just two of the developments in lateral flow assays that will particularly benefit precision diagnostics. This has the tantalizing possibility of bringing down the costs and expanding the availability of precision health.

Read more about the future of lateral flow assays.

With a diverse array of products, GE Healthcare Life Sciences is one of the leading suppliers in lateral-flow technology. Find out more about our offering, including our wide range of blood separation products, conjugate release pads, nitrocellulose membranes, and absorbents. Or request a sample of our nitrocellulose membrane.

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