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Diagnosing Asthma With A Single Drop Of Blood

Diagnosing Asthma With A Single Drop Of Blood

A single droplet of blood can tell the doctor whether you have a mild or severe case of asthma.

Diagnosing Asthma with a Single Drop of Blood

Thursday, November 20, 2014 - 20:00

Karin Heineman, ISTV Executive Producer

(Inside Science TV) -- When coughing, wheezing, and the trouble of breathing hits, people with asthma reach for an inhaler. But being diagnosed with asthma isn't easy. Patients don't always have symptoms by the time they get to a doctor.

There are blood tests, but they often require large amounts of blood. Now, scientists have a new, easy test that can diagnose even mild cases of asthma.

"The benefit to really everybody for this, the patients, or the doctors, or the researchers, is that the test is very quick and it uses very small amounts of blood, just a drop of blood," said Steve Peery, a graduate research assistant at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Researchers found that white blood cells in people with asthma move more slowly than in people who do not have asthma. From a single drop of blood, scientists have developed a test that shows how quickly white blood cells move toward the source of inflammation. In the case of an asthmas attack, white blood cells rush to the lungs.

"When we are done with our test, we’ll have a video showing the movement of these cells," said Peery.

This test may help doctors identify which patients have mild asthma and those with chronic or severe asthma. Currently, asthma is classified mostly by the severity of the symptoms.

The test also means patients could be diagnosed at a doctor's office, even with no symptoms. It's a small test that can do a lot of good.

Researchers point out that having white blood cells that move differently from a non-asthmatic patient doesn't mean you definitely have asthma -- it could be a sign of inflammation in other parts of your body.

Get Inside the Science

The Key to Asthma Diagnosis Is In The Blood

Steve Peery, University of Wisconsin Madison

Erwin Berthier, University of Wisconsin Madison

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Karin Heineman

Karin Heineman is the executive producer of Inside Science TV.