Laboratories

Apparantly WADA wants to cut the number of accredited labs worldwide.

Of the 32 labs, 10 have been suspended at least once in the last two years.

The latest to be sent to the naughty step? Châtenay-Malabry.
France's anti-doping laboratory has been provisionally suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency over "analytical issues".

The suspension prevents the Paris laboratory from carrying out any anti-doping activities, including all analyses of urine and blood samples.

The provisional ban will remain in place pending disciplinary proceedings.
 
Le Mond has detail. The lab self-reported a problem in August. A machine used in testing had become contaminated, resulting in two samples wrongly tripping AAFs. (see edit below)

Funding in recent years has been a problem and Châtenay-Malabry is falling behind ("Its installations are dilapidated, some machines have to be replaced") and it is claimed that the lab had been without direction between the the death in 2010 of Jacques de Ceaurriz and the appointment in 2016 of his successor, Michel Audran. Since Audran's appointment, Châtenay-Malabry has been improving, leading in the detection of the EPO stimulator FG-4592. The suspension will hurt financially:
In a very competitive market, this suspension hampers its future , since it deprives it of revenue and will increase its expenses, the AFLD being henceforth obliged to have its samples analyzed at the neighbors, Ghent or Lausanne for example.
Edit: Le Mond's report seems to say two samples. Another report - Le Figaro - had a slightly higher number: 84.
This suspension is the consequence of an "exceptional" incident , according to AFLD Secretary General Mathieu Teoran, following a major exercise carried out this spring in the world of bodybuilding. 84 bodybuilders were targeted, and virtually all specimens revealed the presence of doping substances, mainly steroids, "at concentrations never seen before, up to 200 times higher than a conventional positive control," says Teoran.
That then led to two other samples being contaminated.
 
Re:

fmk_RoI said:
In a very competitive market, this suspension hampers its future , since it deprives it of revenue and will increase its expenses, the AFLD being henceforth obliged to have its samples analyzed at the neighbors, Ghent or Lausanne for example.
I have to confess, I'm quite taken with the idea of Châtenay-Malabry having to get the neighbours to do the testing: "Hi, it's me, from two doors up. You wouldn't mind if I borrowed a cup of sugar, would you? Oh, and I've got these two pots of piss that need to be tested for drugs, could you be a love and do that for me? Ta."
 
fmk_RoI said:
Apparantly WADA wants to cut the number of accredited labs worldwide.

Of the 32 labs, 10 have been suspended at least once in the last two years.

The latest to be sent to the naughty step? Châtenay-Malabry.
France's anti-doping laboratory has been provisionally suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency over "analytical issues".

The suspension prevents the Paris laboratory from carrying out any anti-doping activities, including all analyses of urine and blood samples.

The provisional ban will remain in place pending disciplinary proceedings.

Sounds like the number of labs needs to be reduced, so that they can actually be in compliance.
 
Catwhoorg said:
fmk_RoI said:
Apparantly WADA wants to cut the number of accredited labs worldwide.

Of the 32 labs, 10 have been suspended at least once in the last two years.

The latest to be sent to the naughty step? Châtenay-Malabry.
France's anti-doping laboratory has been provisionally suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency over "analytical issues".

The suspension prevents the Paris laboratory from carrying out any anti-doping activities, including all analyses of urine and blood samples.

The provisional ban will remain in place pending disciplinary proceedings.

Sounds like the number of labs needs to be reduced, so that they can actually be in compliance.
The problem with this is, I think, WADA supply very little to no funding for facilites and infrastructure. Labs are accredited and must maintain those standards or they lose the accreditation. What it sounds like is WADA need to ramp up their compliance testing rather than reduce the labs who are allowed to apply for accreditation.

Or WADA can start to find labs specifically for sample testing, almost like regional centres, or fund equipment which is becoming increasingly hard to get hold of at times.
 
King Boonen said:
The problem with this is, I think, WADA supply very little to no funding for facilites and infrastructure. Labs are accredited and must maintain those standards or they lose the accreditation. What it sounds like is WADA need to ramp up their compliance testing rather than reduce the labs who are allowed to apply for accreditation.

Or WADA can start to find labs specifically for sample testing, almost like regional centres, or fund equipment which is becoming increasingly hard to get hold of at times.
From Le Mond's story, it would appear WADA's thinking is to cut numbers to solve the financing issues: basic supply and demand. Fewer labs means more money for those that survive. They also want labs to specialise. Le Mond notes that one of Châtenay-Malabry's (financial) problems is that it is a stand-alone lab, not associated with a university (like eg 'the UCI's lab' in Lausanne).

On the compliance testing, yesterday when this story first came out, I thought that was likely to be the reason: WADA sends in spiked samples they already know the results of, if the lab fails to get the results right, it's a black mark. (Docu trails and process audits are other parts of compliance testing, I know.) However, here we seem to have self-reporting of the issue, Châtenay-Malabry ratting itself out. Should WADA's compliance testing have spotted a problem? (I'm not saying or even implying it should.)
 
fmk_RoI said:
King Boonen said:
The problem with this is, I think, WADA supply very little to no funding for facilites and infrastructure. Labs are accredited and must maintain those standards or they lose the accreditation. What it sounds like is WADA need to ramp up their compliance testing rather than reduce the labs who are allowed to apply for accreditation.

Or WADA can start to find labs specifically for sample testing, almost like regional centres, or fund equipment which is becoming increasingly hard to get hold of at times.
From Le Mond's story, it would appear WADA's thinking is to cut numbers to solve the financing issues: basic supply and demand. Fewer labs means more money for those that survive. They also want labs to specialise. Le Mond notes that one of Châtenay-Malabry's (financial) problems is that it is a stand-alone lab, not associated with a university (like eg 'the UCI's lab' in Lausanne).
I'm unsure if it would make much difference to be honest. A lab can't exist on anti-doping money alone (this is the French NADO lab so I would assume they back it along with any income from sample analysis and it still struggles to maintain equipment) and I would think the majority of lab funding comes from grant funding for other research. Most labs already specialise in something, it's just usually not specific anti-doping stuff as it will limit any money it could bring in. If WADA want specialist labs for certain sample types/doping products etc. they are probably going to have to invest in the equipment and staff themselves as these tend to be the biggest overheads (our MS service contracts are very expensive, et alone finding hundreds of thousands of pounds for new ones). Accreditation also means having specific facilities and processes in place that need maintaining and again, I don't think WADA fund this so you have to find the money from somewhere else. I'm pretty sure it all basically comes down to there being nowhere near enough funding to support what is actually required.


On the compliance testing, yesterday when this story first came out, I thought that was likely to be the reason: WADA sends in spiked samples they already know the results of, if the lab fails to get the results right, it's a black mark. (Docu trails and process audits are other parts of compliance testing, I know.) However, here we seem to have self-reporting of the issue, Châtenay-Malabry ratting itself out. Should WADA's compliance testing have spotted a problem? (I'm not saying or even implying it should.)
Ideally yes, WADA should be doing "secret shopper/diner" type tests to check compliance, along with visits, both organised and surprise. The MHRA/FDA do this with great effect in the pharmaceutical/food industries (which the industries are forced to pay for themselves).

Self-reporting should also happen, as has in this case, but you'd hope it would be rare as compliance testing should keep on top of it.

Again, I think it all comes down to money. WADA has very little of it, NADOs have very little of it and the sports federations that have lots of it (not all of them) don't want to invest in something that could cause them to have less of it.

Ideally, anti-doping needs a complete overhaul in terms of funding and distribution of funding. Sports/teams should be forced to pay in a set amount and this should be distributed by a body that has as limited a connection with any sport as possible. This body (or bodies) should then fund a set number of labs to analyse the samples. Again, these labs should have no connection with any other sports funding if they need to do other research to balance the books (Ideally they wouldn't). All compliance is handled by these bodies and labs lose funding if found repeatedly out of compliance. If that is where the vast majority of their funding comes from they are incentivised to make sure they are compliant.

It won't happen, but it should. Disappointingly, I wouldn't be surprised if there are many labs, funded privately by sports teams, that have the capabilities to analyse these kind of samples (even if they are not). That money being invested on that side could massively help anti-doping.
 
King Boonen said:
I'm pretty sure it all basically comes down to there being nowhere near enough funding to support what is actually required.
I recall reading some Don Catlin interviews from years ago where he discusses this, I think with particular reference to the cost of machines. It's not an issue many think about in relation to anti-doping.
King Boonen said:
Ideally, anti-doping needs a complete overhaul in terms of funding and distribution of funding.
Some of this comes back to the plan to bring all anti-doping under one wing, yes? WADA are moving forward with what they've said will be a voluntary system, you have Lappartient trying to position the CADF as a player here. But, still, the funding issue isn't being addressed, either how to extract the money from the feds (and through the feds the teams, athletes and organisers) or from the media (anti-doping's own land grab on the much dreamed of TV revenue gold mine). Making the labs fully stand-alone - as you suggest - strikes me as a necessity to unlock the funding, otherwise people can't be sure the money they pay is going to the services they need (and not, say, some other research project in a wholly unrelated area).
King Boonen said:
I wouldn't be surprised if there are many labs, funded privately by sports teams, that have the capabilities to analyse these kind of samples (even if they are not). That money being invested on that side could massively help anti-doping.
Are there any rules on this? I recall McQuaid trying to kick up a fuss when CSC, HTC + Garmin started with the team-funded in-house testing programmes, trying to say they couldn't do this, but is it actually blocked, and if so is it policed?
 
fmk_RoI said:
King Boonen said:
I'm pretty sure it all basically comes down to there being nowhere near enough funding to support what is actually required.
I recall reading some Don Catlin interviews from years ago where he discusses this, I think with particular reference to the cost of machines. It's not an issue many think about in relation to anti-doping.
Yes and it's a huge cost. I think you can get an Orbitrap qExactive for around £200,000 (there are several models, fragmentation is required for most analyses now I think so that increases the price) which is pretty much the standard, benchtop, high res mass spec. Thermo currently hold the patent which means older instrument support is dependent on them and there is no choice in vendor. I think this will change soon but the more powerful instruments can easily top £500,000. There are associated bits of kit, pumps, nitrogen generators etc. that also cost not-insignificant amounts along with LC systems and so on. On top of this the instruments cost us about £1000 a day to run or leave idle, so this needs to be covered even before you consider staff with relevant experience, computation power, freezers for sample storage, centrifuges for prep and so on and a building to house everything.

If WADA or an NADO can't support the facility it has to do other research. Some may be able to get enough funding for doping detection development but many will have to look elsewhere, and for many researchers the interesting stuff is elsewhere. Doping detection is essentially busywork to help pay the bills. Staff retention can then become an issue, most researchers don't care much about money, we care about interesting projects, so bigger wages need to offered to get people with the right experience.

The money to fund a lab could be a drop in the ocean for say Formula One, The Premier League, NFL, MLB etc. but for the UCI or a national cycling body it's completely unfeasible. If we want sport to fund anti-doping then we need a wholesale change in attitude towards doping from the sports that make the most money.

King Boonen said:
Ideally, anti-doping needs a complete overhaul in terms of funding and distribution of funding.
Some of this comes back to the plan to bring all anti-doping under one wing, yes? WADA are moving forward with what they've said will be a voluntary system, you have Lappartient trying to position the CADF as a player here. But, still, the funding issue isn't being addressed, either how to extract the money from the feds (and through the feds the teams, athletes and organisers) or from the media (anti-doping's own land grab on the much dreamed of TV revenue gold mine). Making the labs fully stand-alone - as you suggest - strikes me as a necessity to unlock the funding, otherwise people can't be sure the money they pay is going to the services they need (and not, say, some other research project in a wholly unrelated area).[/quote]

One wing or at least one body that administrates and distributes funds to regional bodies. In the pharmaceutical industry companies are required to pay the local body so they can be inspected. they have no say in how the money is used or how much it is, if you don't pay you can't be inspected and can't operate. Unfortunately, it would be a hard model to work for a single body covering all sports. Rich sports could easily afford to pay for sample analysis but poor sports couldn't. To get it to work properly you would either have to only test sports that can afford the bills or the rich sports would have to fund the testing for everyone. The cost would likely be small but you can imagine the reaction of FIFA if they are told their money is going to pay for other sports testing regimes. It's a really difficult problem to sort out which is probably why it never gets mentioned.

King Boonen said:
I wouldn't be surprised if there are many labs, funded privately by sports teams, that have the capabilities to analyse these kind of samples (even if they are not). That money being invested on that side could massively help anti-doping.
Are there any rules on this? I recall McQuaid trying to kick up a fuss when CSC, HTC + Garmin started with the team-funded in-house testing programmes, trying to say they couldn't do this, but is it actually blocked, and if so is it policed?[/quote][/quote]

As far as I'm aware no. There will be local laws and protocols governing collection and analysis of human samples, and labs connected to unis, hospitals etc. will have more stringent ethics requirements, but it could all easily be passed off as research or patient monitoring. That's likely not even a lie, the data you would get from such facilities would be hugely valuable, even if just in-house. This is assuming everything they are doing is legal though. I have no idea what the laws are if they are looking for doping.

The way to solve this would be independent doctors, funded by WADA, that are assigned to teams to monitor health. I've mentioned this several times as a way to deal with the dodgy doctor hiring in cycling and would be easier to fund as you just make the team pay the salary to WADA who then pass it on to the doctor. They can be rotated every now and then and banned from any financial incentives (eg, teams can't give them clothing, bikes, nice hotel rooms etc.). Very similar to how doctors are now required to interact with drug reps. Any visit to a different doctor must be documented like a TUE and examined by the WADA appointed doctor.


Again, this requires money and oversight, but mainly it would require a massive attitude change towards sports medicine. Sports would have to want to change and teams, owners, sponsors etc. would have to accept that the legal aspect of sports medicine would be constrained. I don't think it'll happen anytime soon.
 
Re:

Robert5091 said:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/wada-provisionally-suspends-chatenay-malabry-laboratory/
Le Monde has reported that there were two instances of contamination in the laboratory, which arose after a urine sample with an exceptionally high concentration of anabolic steroids had left a residue on the testing equipment that remained even after thorough washing.
Obviously not thorough enough!
You would be surprised just how hard it can be to get rid of contamination, especially if there is no legal limit for a particular compound but even when there isn't. Instrumentation is getting more and more sensitive as well which means contaminants that used to not be observed can now present significant problems in analysis. It is a blessing, such as detecting small amounts of possibly toxic bi-products in the pharma industry or trace amounts of doping products which would have been missed, and a curse, such as in this case.
 
Aug 9, 2017
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At my job, we also have to pay for testing of products. Industrial spec, so nowhere near the accuracy required for doping controls, around 1 sample a week still runs deep into the thousands each year.
 
Feb 23, 2011
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The way to solve this would be independent doctors, funded by WADA, that are assigned to teams to monitor health. I've mentioned this several times as a way to deal with the dodgy doctor hiring in cycling and would be easier to fund as you just make the team pay the salary to WADA who then pass it on to the doctor. They can be rotated every now and then and banned from any financial incentives (eg, teams can't give them clothing, bikes, nice hotel rooms etc.). Very similar to how doctors are now required to interact with drug reps. Any visit to a different doctor must be documented like a TUE and examined by the WADA appointed doctor.
Yep I agree with this and I think there should also be an allocated WADA doctor/s on stage races for riders requiring 'genuine' medical assistance. Its bothered me for some time that some of the bigger teams declare 4 doctors on their roster for 30 guys in the peak of physical fitness. Unless said teams are engaged in a unbanned/banned chemistry 'arms race'. A move away from the 'chemistry experiment' aspect of cycling would be a move in the right direction.

@ King Boonen - just curious as you seem well read on the topic. Surely if the testing equipment is not accurate or calibrated according to the manufacturers requirement then this leaves it open to scrutiny if a riders A sample tests positive? Would it then be tested on accurate equipment for the B sample? I wondered how this works as on the face of it test results may be open to challenge in the same way as somebody in the UK caught on an uncalibrated speed camera.
 
B_Ugli said:
The way to solve this would be independent doctors, funded by WADA, that are assigned to teams to monitor health. I've mentioned this several times as a way to deal with the dodgy doctor hiring in cycling and would be easier to fund as you just make the team pay the salary to WADA who then pass it on to the doctor. They can be rotated every now and then and banned from any financial incentives (eg, teams can't give them clothing, bikes, nice hotel rooms etc.). Very similar to how doctors are now required to interact with drug reps. Any visit to a different doctor must be documented like a TUE and examined by the WADA appointed doctor.
Yep I agree with this and I think there should also be an allocated WADA doctor/s on stage races for riders requiring 'genuine' medical assistance. Its bothered me for some time that some of the bigger teams declare 4 doctors on their roster for 30 guys in the peak of physical fitness. Unless said teams are engaged in a unbanned/banned chemistry 'arms race'. A move away from the 'chemistry experiment' aspect of cycling would be a move in the right direction.

@ King Boonen - just curious as you seem well read on the topic. Surely if the testing equipment is not accurate or calibrated according to the manufacturers requirement then this leaves it open to scrutiny if a riders A sample tests positive? Would it then be tested on accurate equipment for the B sample? I wondered how this works as on the face of it test results may be open to challenge in the same way as somebody in the UK caught on an uncalibrated speed camera.
Sorry for the late reply. I can only speak about the methods that use mass spec. These instruments aren't like speed cameras or breathalysers which are designed to detect a single variable. A mass spec can detect literally any molecule that you can ionise and get to "fly" in the instrument. This means that there isn't really a manufacturers calibration for detection in the same way there is for speed cameras. Calibrating a mass spec checks its accuracy to measure the mass-to-charge ratio (surrogate for mass) of molecules and it has a pseudo-check for sensitivity. The problem is, different molecules ionise in different ways and under different conditions/settings, so a manufacturer would never be able to cover all of these.

It's also very dependent on the test being done. Certain types of mass spec are better at giving accurate isotope ratios when compared to others. Some are better for quantitation and some give a much more accurate mass and resolve the different molecules better.

As far as I'm aware, there are testing protocols developed that the lab has to follow. For simple presence/absence (doping products which have no allowed limit) just finding them in the sample is enough. For products that occur naturally or have an allowable limit there will be a quantitation protocol that will allow the lab to determine how much of that is present in a sample. Again, the instrument used can have an effect here as there are two limits;

Limit of detection (LOD)
Limit of quantitation (LOQ)

LOD is fine when only the presence of a compound is enough to trigger a finding (although this varies based on instrument as Alberto Contador found out), but LOQ can be much higher (i.e. require more of a compound to be present to quantify it) so again it can be dependent on what equipment the lab has as to whether samples will trigger a finding. There will be a range of quantitation a lab must achieve, but that doesn't mean they can't do better.

In all of these cases the lab would have to prove LOD, LOQ.

There are many, many other factors involved here. It's important to note that these instruments are used to sequence proteins, profile cancer cell metabolism, investigate biomarkers for diseases in plasma, urine etc., used to characterise novel drug compounds and so on. They're very complicated bits of kit designed to do cutting edge research.

In this case the problem seems to be contamination. This is a separate issue. There are several ways contamination can happen but in this case it sounds like it was carry-over from another sample. Basically, a doped sample is analysed, a product is detected and a tiny amount of that product hangs about in the instrument. When the next sample is run this product is again detected and flagged. (This carry-over does not necessarily happen in the mass spec, there are other related parts that can be contaminated). There are ways to check this, running blank samples or something that you know does not contain the product(s) you are looking for (like a yeast sample) allows you to see if there is anything left from the previous sample. I'm guessing that when they went back and checked they either found this in their QC samples or they didn't run QC samples so couldn't say. As instruments get more and more sensitive this actually becomes a much bigger issue. Carry-over that you never used to see in the past can now be observed because your LOD is much lower.


I hope that all makes sense, sorry if it's rambling. I could go on for days about this kind of thing!
 
Some blue sky thinking from Mike Miller, chief executive of the World Olympians Association (don't worry, I've never heard of him either): put a laboratory in the body of every athlete.
Miller claims a breakthrough in microchip technology is on the horizon and testers need to be aware of developments. His fear is that drug cheats could exploit the technology to avoid detection through self-monitoring, alerting them when their blood has returned to “normal” levels before testers arrive.

Speaking to anti-doping leaders at a Westminster forum on integrity in sport, Miller said: “In order to stop doping we need to chip our athletes where the latest technology is there. Some people say it’s an invasion of privacy, well, sport is a club and people don’t have to join the club if they don’t want to, if they can’t follow the rules.

“Microchips get over the issue of whether the technology can be manipulated because they have no control over the device. The problem with the current anti-doping system is that all it says is that at a precise moment in time there are no banned substances but we need a system which says you are illegal substance-free at all times and if there are changes in markers they will be detected.”
It goes without saying that some would chaff at such a move, see it as a step too far. Not Mr Miller:
“Some people say we shouldn’t do this to people,” Miller said. “Well, we’re a nation of dog lovers, we’re prepared to chip our dogs and it doesn’t seem to harm them, so why aren’t we prepared to chip ourselves?”
While what Miller is suggesting is new - the idea of chips that can carry out tests in real time, all the time - the idea of using microchips in anti-doping has already been punted: earlier this year, IIRC, it was suggested that chips could help solve the problems of updating whereabouts in ADAMS, by always letting WADA know where you are (right now I can't recall the source of this, but IIRC it was suggested that the chips only be activated periodically during the day, so they weren't tracking all of an athlete's movements).

How close we really are to such testing technology I have no idea - any experts here care to chip in? - but I would have thought that even if that sort of testing technology existed today, we're still nowhere near where we'd need to be on security in order to guarantee not just the privacy of the athletes concerned, but the accuracy of the data sent back by the chips. We can't even protect wi-fi enabled dildos, do we really think we can guarantee the security of an internet-of-things athlete?
 
Continuous glucose monitoring systems exist and are readily available for example, but the technology to detect any doping product/method at any point and stream the information back to a centre hub doesn't exist and is unlikely to at any point.

I guess they might be close to a chip that could measure haematocrit, I've never looked into it. Lab on a Chip would be a good place to start looking:

http://pubs.rsc.org/en/journals/journalissues/lc#!recentarticles&adv

Even if it existed I wouldn't want to see it in use to be honest.

The location chip wouldn't work. The point of the ADAMS system is so they have prior knowledge of where you will be during testing periods. Expecting a cyclist to be in Glasgow, because that's what yesterdays location was and finding out they are in Battersea when they turn their chip on isn't going to help. In general they know where they can find particular athletes anyway.

Intersting ideas but for me, at some point, you begin to infringe too much on a persons right to privacy and their freedom.
 
Re:

King Boonen said:
Intersting ideas but for me, at some point, you begin to infringe too much on a persons right to privacy and their freedom.
That is actually where I start with it, too. As far as I'm concerned, the version of anti-doping first espoused by people like Pierre Dumas in the 1950s and 1960s was about respecting athletes, was about trying to help and to protect athletes. Today, we are increasingly throwing away that respect, bit by bit.

On the technology: I would doubt that any tech could fulfill the full spectrum covered by current testing, so this would have to sit alongside, rather than replace, the overall architecture of the current testing system. The idea of digital laboratories replacing bricks and mortar is, I know, far fetched.

Possibly there could be an application of this for the ABP's blood module, if all the values could be collected, but even so, I wouldn't like to see this happening.

The integrity of the data collected would, for me, be a major concern: IoT fans have not exactly wrapped themselves in glory when it comes to protecting devices from hacking.

On the whereabouts thing: apologies, but I just can't recall where I read that story and my Googling isn't finding it. But IIRC part of it was about gauging attitudes to the idea of chipping athletes. The issues you raise with regard to the value of the data - that it doesn't allow test planning - were secondary.
 
Athletes and their Coaches will soon be using embedded real-time technology in their bodies for sports science anyway. We're already seeing beginnings of this with thigs like Professor Tony Purnell's Burger Van at Manchester Velodrome for example measuring all the riders data in realtime including stuff like lactate, oxygen, hydration monitoring etc. It won't be long until this is embedded under the skin and wirelessly communicates with you head unit and in turn relays everything to a main computer in the team car or track side.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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fmk_RoI said:
Anyone got any useful thoughts on the applications / limitations of this?

Is this the same realm as the biosensors already mentioned or are microfluidic chips a different branch of the lab-on-a-chip world?
Microfuildics is interesting, but as Theranos has shown, it's not quite there yet. It can do things like look for biomarkers, and titrate to look for certain chemicals, etc. But as far as I know, a lot of it still requires preparation of the sample, as in you can't just put a drop of blood or urine on the chip and expect it to work well.

Basically, the whole basis of the technology is creating incredibly tiny channels in a substrate. It's then possible to manipulate fluids that are added to the channels, such as transporting into an area that contains a reactant, or has the correct conditions to crystalize a certain protein, etc. Add some smarts and you can read out the results. This makes it possible to check for certain diseases, presence of specific substances and the like. Fantastic stuff if you want to check a large, remote population for HIV at a reasonable cost.

The limitation is that it's super tough to do things like look for testosterone ratios, or do a blood profile with any kind of accuracy. It can do some things really well, but for now it'll still take a full lab to perform anti-doping controls with any accuracy.

John Swanson
 
The linked article, and a link in that link, note that the purpose of the technology is to identify bacteria and viruses. That can be done on microchips right now. Basically, the chip contains DNA sequences that are unique to, and therefore markers for, known bacteria and viruses. If a properly treated microsample is applied to the chip, the DNA from the sample will bind to, or hybridize with, the specific DNA sequences on the chip that correspond to what’s in the sample. Fluorescence is used to locate and identify the sequence on the chip.

This has been done routinely in labs for a long time now. As ScienceisCool notes, the sample does have to be properly prepared, but I think it’s easy enough to design a kit that allows one to do that. Where it becomes more difficult, again a nod to SiC, is if you want to detect certain substances, macromolecules like proteins, or smaller molecules like drugs. You could design chips for those, too, but they might require more elaborate steps, and if you want to be able to test for all these substances, along with DNA sequences, on a single chip, it becomes much more difficult.

But if Dr. Nash wants to have an impact right now, it would certainly be possible to test for bacteria and viruses known to infect horses with current chip technology. I don’t follow horse racing, but surely they must have vets at the track—and of course any owner/stable will have one—who could easily be trained to carry out the test. Since there are a limited number of infectious agents, diagnosis should not be that difficult—at least not at the level that concludes, there is a problem here, the horse should be removed, maybe quarantined and examined more thoroughly.

And since we’re discussing this in the Clinic, I’ll add that this kind of technology could also be used to detect some kinds of gene doping.
 

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