The Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) and Shri Sankaradeva Nethralaya Guwahati, have jointly developed a testing device to detect diabetic retinopathy at an early stage without the need of invasive testing. The device comprises a small plate containing microchannels for guidance of fluids. The team has also filed an Indian patent for this idea and device. Diabetic retinopathy is a serious non-communicable disease in India. It is caused by abnormal growth in the retinal blood vessels in people with diabetes and is usually worsened when the person is on insulin for diabetic treatment.
The research funded by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Indian Council of Medical Research and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology was led by Dr. Dipankar Bandyopadhyay, Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering and Head of Center for Nanotechnology, IIT Guwahati.
Descriptions and results of the testing device have been published in the ACS journal -- ACS Sustainable Chemistry And Engineering. The paper has been authored by Dr Bandyopadhyay, his students of IIT Guwahati, Mr Surjendu Maity, Mr Subhradip Ghosh and Ms Tamanna Bhuyan and collaborator Dr. Dipankar Das, Head of the Department of Ocular Pathology and Uvea in Shri Sankaradeva Nethralaya, Guwahati.
Diabetic Retinopathy and IIT Guwahati Device
Dr Bandyopadhyay in a statement said: “Currently, the first step in the test for diabetic retinopathy is an invasive eye exam, in which the eyes are dilated and the ophthalmologist inspects the eye.”
“As people who have had eye examinations know, this is inconvenient, with blurry vision for a long time after examination”, the professor added.
The team of IIT Guwahati, as per a statement, wondered if there was a simple test such as a blood or urine test, to detect retinopathy even before symptoms are seen in the eye. This induced the researchers to look for appropriate biomarkers of retinopathy – chemicals that are found in body fluids, that can indicate impending or ongoing retinopathy.
The statement issued by IIT Guwahati said: “Researchers found that β-2-microglobulin (B2M), a protein found in tears and urine, is a reliable indicator for retinopathy. Armed with this knowledge, they set out to develop a device that can detect this protein in these body fluids.”
“We designed a microfluidic system, in which, the body fluid – tear or urine – was drawn into very thin tubes or capillaries, where they came in contact with the gold-antibody nanoparticles, and the change in colour was assessed to detect B2M”, explained Dr Bandyopadhyay.
Numerous microfluidic devices have already been developed for the biomarker detection in cancer and other diseases, but there are hitherto, none for detection of diabetic retinopathy. The IIT Guwahati team's work is among the first in this area and has tremendous practical implications, especially in India, the diabetic capital of the world, the statement added.