Asthma: new rapid test for diagnosis

Asthma: new rapid test for diagnosis

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New rapid asthma test makes diagnosis easier

Asthma is an extremely common respiratory disease that can have serious consequences if left untreated. Early diagnosis is therefore a top priority. A new rapid test by the Fraunhofer Institute for Marine Biotechnology and Cell Technology EMB should in future recognize the disease in a maximum of 1.5 hours using a single drop of blood.

The research team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Marine Biotechnology and Cell Technology EMB is currently working with high-tech companies to develop a rapid test that only requires a drop of blood to diagnose asthma, according to the Fraunhofer Society. The result of the new test should already be available after 60 to 90 minutes. A specially developed holographic microscope is used for this.

Asthma can have serious consequences

Worldwide, more than 235 million people suffer from asthma, with shortness of breath, shortness of breath and cough being the typical symptoms. Affected people show seizure-like narrowing of the bronchi, which can have serious consequences. In the course of the disease, the respiratory tract is increasingly damaged and asthma attacks threaten, which in the worst case can be fatal. However, the therapeutic options for early diagnosis are relatively good.

Diagnosis in children difficult

"It is particularly important for children to diagnose the disease early in order to intervene quickly and alleviate the symptoms," reports the Fraunhofer Institute. However, the diagnosis is more complicated and lengthy for them than for adults. For example, some measuring methods where you blow into a hose are not possible in young children and time-consuming lung function tests are only suitable from the age of four to five years.

Result after only 90 minutes

The research team is therefore developing a new test in the “KillAsthma” project, which is also funded by the state of Schleswig-Holstein, which is to demonstrate asthma based on a blood test within a maximum of 90 minutes. A specially developed holographic microscope is used for this, the images of which are evaluated using artificial intelligence (AI).

Movement patterns of the immune cells analyzed

Based on the knowledge that the movement profile of the immune cells in the blood of asthmatics differs significantly from that of healthy people, the researchers developed a test in which the blood cells are observed under a special holographic microscope to identify the deviating movement patterns. "In asthma, the movement of the immune cells is greatly slowed down when they experience an inflammatory stimulus"; explains Dr. Daniel Rapoport, head of the cell processing group at Fraunhofer EMB.

Evaluation using AI

The special microscope - also known as a cell scanner - enables automatic, three-dimensional tracking of the cells in real time, according to the Fraunhofer Institute. A crucial role is played by the evaluation by an AI that recognizes characteristic patterns in the complex movement patterns of thousands of cells.

Self-learning algorithms

"We can observe 2000 to 3000 cells at the same time, which ensures high statistical accuracy," emphasizes Dr. Rapoport. The blood cell movement patterns are analyzed by self-learning algorithms and a diagnostic index is calculated. The AI ​​learns to recognize deviations in the patterns and can then distinguish the profiles of sick and healthy.

Also applicable to other diseases

According to the researchers, the first results also allow the conclusion that the AI ​​could also learn to recognize other deviations from the norm and thus identify other diseases. "This is particularly true for autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and rheumatism," emphasizes Dr. Here, the diagnoses are lengthy and they can be accelerated significantly with an adapted quick test, according to the expert.

Superior to the high-performance microscope

In the first tests, the image evaluation using a holographic microscope has proven to be superior to the high-performance microscope, the research team sums up. The hardware and the procedure are currently being optimized with the long-term goal of recognizing the individual form of asthma diseases in order to be able to develop a personalized treatment plan. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Fraunhofer Gesellschaft: Rapid test for asthma diagnosis (published 02.12.2019),

Video: Diagnosing Asthma: Mild, Moderate, and Severe (January 2023).