Quick, Easy, Inexpensive Cortisol Testing Should Soon Be Available on All Smartphones
FIU researchers are developing a test to detect in real-time a person's level of cortisol – widely known as the stress hormone – which could help soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and others who suffer from cortisol's effects, to manage its impact on their health.
Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism. Elevated levels of cortisol can cause a long list of negative health effects, including depression, mental illness, heart disease and lower life expectancy.
Now, with a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program, Shekhar Bhansali, Alcatel-Lucent professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Kelly Mesa, a doctoral student in his department, are exploring the commercial potential of their research on cortisol detection. Other members of the team include Gabriel Saffold, a graduate student in entrepreneurship at the University of Central Florida, and Alison Tanner from the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, who will serve as business mentors for the project.
They are one of 24 teams from universities around the country that will participate in national business development workshops and speak with potential customers and partners to evaluate the real-world potential of their technology. They also will use the Business Model Canvas, a popular entrepreneurial tool, to refine their business model.
Cortisol levels currently can only be measured on tests done in a lab. The team's goal is to see if there can be a quantitative diagnosis for PTSD through a quick test done with a sample of sweat or saliva. The proposed sensor has the potential to aid soldiers with PTSD by providing a tool that allows them to monitor their stress levels throughout the day, Mesa said.
FIU has established itself as a leader in the detection of cortisol through its nanotechnology research. One of four partner universities in the NSF's Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST), FIU is a leader in a national nanotechnology research effort to create small, wearable, self-powered devices that will help people monitor their health.
The FIU team's research involves building a sensor on a strip and the electronics to read it. Within the six-month duration of the NSF grant, the team will determine whether their research is worthy of pursuit.
"We need to understand what our potential customers' needs are and see if our technology can be engineered to serve them," said Bhansali, the team's principal investigator.
Appl Biochem Biotechnol. 2014 Oct;174(3):1115-26. doi: 10.1007/s12010-014-0894-2. Epub 2014 Apr 11.
Psychological stress caused by everyday lifestyle contributes to health disparities experienced by individuals. It affects many biomarkers, but cortisol - "a steroid hormone" - is known as a potential biomarker for psychological stress detection. Abnormal levels of cortisol are indicative of conditions such as Cushing's syndrome Addison's disease, adrenal insufficiencies and more recently post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Chromatographic techniques, which are traditionally used to detect cortisol, are a complex system requiring multistep extraction/purification. This limits its application for point-of-care (POC) detection of cortisol. However, electrochemical immunosensing of cortisol is a recent advancement towards POC application. This review highlights simple, low-cost, and label-free electrochemical immunosensing platforms which have been developed recently for sensitive and selective detection of cortisol in bio-fluids. Electrochemical detection is utilized for the detection of cortisol using Anti-Cortisol antibodies (Anti-Cab) covalently immobilized on nanostructures, such as self-assembled monolayer (SAM) and polymer composite, for POC integration of sensors. The observed information can be used as a prototype to understand behavioral changes in humans such as farmers and firefighters. Keeping the future directions and challenges in mind, the focus of the BioMEMS and Microsystems Research Group at Florida International University is on development of POC devices for immunosensing, integration of these devices with microfluidics, cross validation with existing technologies, and analysis of real sample.
Continuous subcutaneous hydrocortisone infusion was a safe approach for decreasing adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol levels to a normal circadian level with minimal adverse effects on glucocorticoid metabolism compared with conventional oral hydrocortisone replacement therapy, according to results in a prospective crossover study.
These data suggest a physiological glucocorticoid replacement therapy may be beneficial and that the infusion may become an option for patients with poorly controlled levels such as those with Addison's disease, according to Marianne Øksnes, MD,of the department of clinical science and department of medicine at the University of Bergen in Norway, and colleagues.
Patients with Addison's disease (n=33) were assessed at baseline and after 8 and 12 weeks in each treatment arm, according to data.
The infusion allowed the normalization of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol levels, and 24-hour salivary cortisol curves appeared to reach normal circadian variation, the researchers wrote.
"This study shows that [continuous subcutaneous hydrocortisone infusion] can safely re-establish the circadian cortisol rhythm and normalize morning ACTH levels in [Addison's disease] patients, which is in sharp contrast to the typical daytime cortisol peaks and troughs and elevated morning ACTH seen with [oral hydrocortisone] treatment," researchers wrote.
The oral hydrocortisone yielded major alterations in glucocorticoid metabolites and metabolic enzyme activities, according to researchers. However, the infusion appeared to restore glucocorticoid metabolism close to normal.
No significant between-treatment differences were observed in sleep outcomes, according to data.
Additional studies are warranted to determine further ultradian rhythm improvement outcomes for patients with Addison's disease.