Medical demand for home blood glucose monitoring equipment has led to the development of inexpensive, accurate, and widely available electronic instruments that can measure glucose levels in blood. Some modern personal glucose meters, or PGMs, cost as little as $10.
Li and Xiang reasoned that, if they could find a way to chemically couple a compound with glucose, i.e. a reaction that would produce one molecule of glucose for each molecule of the target compound, then a PGM could be used just as well to measure the target compound. Then they went and found a way to do that for, well, just about any compound a person might want to measure.
The process requires some fancy chemistry to raise a DNA fragment that will bind specifically to the target molecule, but once that’s done, the reagent can be produced and sold in bulk inexpensively. You would buy a reagent custom-designed for your analyte of interest, mix it with your sample, add a pinch of sugar (literally), and the sugar would be converted to glucose in direct proportion to the concentration of your target. Then stick a grocery store PGM in the vial and take a reading. [via Science Daily]