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UBC Okanagan’s blood study helps detect diseases and opioid dependency

Sepideh Pakpour, a School of Engineering assistant professor, says test show levitating human plasma may lead to faster, more reliable, portable and simpler disease detection.
Sepideh Pakpour, a School of Engineering assistant professor, says test show levitating human plasma may lead to faster, more reliable, portable and simpler disease detection. UBCO

A new study conducted by UBC’s Okanagan campus, in conjunction with Harvard Medical School and Michigan State University, may lead to a new method that can determine if people are more susceptible to certain diseases or even opioid dependency.

The researchers used electricity to separate blood into different components, a process they called levitating human plasma.

The end result could lead to more reliable, portable and simpler disease detection, the researchers say.

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“Human plasma proteins contain information on the occurrence and development of addiction and diseases,” says Sepideh Pakpour, an assistant professor with UBCO’s School of Engineering and one of the authors of the research.

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As plasma proteins are different densities, when separated the proteins levitate at different heights, and therefore become identifiable.

Researchers are using the proteins to predict opioid dependencies and addictions, and they say the findings could one day lead to medical diagnoses using the technology.

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A closer look at these types of proteins and how they group together can tell how susceptible a patient is of contracting a disease or the possibility of becoming addicted to opioids.

“We compared the differences between healthy proteins and diseased proteins to set benchmarks,”said Pakpour.

“With this information and the plasma levitation, we were able to accurately detect rare proteins that are only found in individuals with opioid addictions.”

 The researchers are excited about the prospect of developing a portable and accurate diagnostic tool for health care practitioners.

Mental health summit held at UBC Okanagan
Mental health summit held at UBC Okanagan