Ben-Gurion University (BGU) researchers were able to develop an innovative, faster way to measure the effectiveness of Clozapine in patients suffering from schizophrenia with a pin prick, a Tuesday press release on behalf of the university reported.
Clozapine is often used to help patients who were unaided by other drugs and is usually given after two existing medications failed. If taken twice a day, the drug takes roughly one week to develop balance in the patient and is used for other mental illnesses, such as psychotic depression and other forms of intense mania.
However, during this one week, patients must undergo various blood draws to determine how they are responding to the treatment. The drug is effective but has serious side effects, and better testing would spare patients time and increase their comfort level as they attempt to regain their mental health.
Dr. Hadar Ben-Yoav from BGU and his team were able to build a tiny sensor to detect the levels of the drug in the patient's blood by using one drop, easily attained with a pin prick. This can be done thanks to the sensor being able to detect even very tiny amounts of redox molecules in untreated blood samples. Other methods require more blood be taken, and for the samples to undergo lab treatment to infer how the drug is able to affect the patient. Faster testing would, hopefully, enable patients to get effective help with fewer risks from side effects.
"The unique aspect of Clozapine," Ben-Yoav told The Jerusalem Post, "is that it is one of the few psychiatric drugs to have a known range of attaining effectiveness. Meaning, once a specific level of concentration in the blood is reached, the patient benefits from the effects."
The drug, he explains, includes a molecule that can receive and transmits electrons. The sensor is an electrode. When a strong current can pass through the blood sample, this shows it has many molecules of the drug in it, a weak current would prove the opposite. The solution does not require the blood sample be taken to a lab and be processed, which saves a great deal of time.
"Our solution actually has many sensors on it," he added, noting that this makes it a lot like the human tongue, which has many taste receptors.
Just as the human tongue creates an "electric picture" in the brain of salty or sweet flavors, the sensor creates an "electric picture" which "shows the concentration of the drug in the patient's blood."
Clozapine is owned by Novartis. The technology created by Ben-Yoav and his team is currently being explored by the university tech-transfer company BGN Technologies.
"Importantly, the technology underlying this novel Clozapine sensor can be used as a platform for the detection of additional substances," BGN Technologies CEO Josh Peleg said.
He added that once a patent is in place, his company will seek partners to further develop and commercialize the device.