Research

Simpler blood test for vitamin D could enhance preventive care, developer says

13-Jan-2014 - By Hank Schultz
Purity Labs' experience with mass spectroscopy led the the new blood tests.
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In another way point in the personalized healthcare movement, Purity Labs of Portland, OR has announced the development of a vitamin D blood test that involves obtaining only small spots of blood applied to cards. The new test lowers costs, simplifies shipping and makes the test easier for practitioners and might mean consumers could do it themselves, the developer says.

David Humphrey, CEO of Purity Labs, said the company has done mostly food testing in the past, and in the process built up a lot of experience with mass spectroscopy.  So the company looked at applying that technique to analyzing blood.

“We have hired people who are pioneering this area of digitizing blood testing, starting with vitamin D.  We have another project that will include 25 or 30 other common tests,” Humphrey told NutraIngredients-USA.

Simpler, less costly test

Humphrey said the technique offers many advantages over the blood tests that are done today, starting with needing only a pinprick of blood.  Venous blood draws require the services of a phlebotomist, and the tests themselves are expensive and not as accurate as could be hoped, he said.

In Purity’s  test the patient will prick their finger and transfer blood from their finger onto a testing strip. The strip will then be sent back to Purity where it will be analyzed for the patient’s vitamin D status. The test will look at both vitamin D-2 and vitamin D-3 levels, the two most important types of vitamin D in humans. This is a fantastic option for patients who are unable to receive testing in the traditional doctors office setting; including children, the elderly and those who are homebound.

Robert Guthrie introduced blood spot testing in 1963 and it has been used around the world to test infants for phenylketonuria. This was due to the fact that a blood draw was not realistic for babies. Blood spot testing has now been expanded to include testing for vitamin D, hormone levels, hypothyroidism, HIV and many others.

Purity’s blood spot kit contains all the tools necessary to perform the test. It includes instructions on how to take the test, two lancets, a spot saver card, an alcohol prep pad, a surgical sponge and a latex free bandage. A requisition form and pre-paid return envelope are also included in the kit. When the test is complete it is placed into the pre-paid envelope along with the test requisition form and mailed back to Purity. Prices for the tests have yet to be determined.

Enabling prevention

Humphrey said the cost and complexity of the tests based venous blood draws has meant that the tests are done only occasionally, making the frequent monitoring of things like a patient’s vitamin D levels unlikely.  It feeds into the healthcare paradigm of treating acute conditions, rather than monitoring health status with an aim toward prevention, he said.  Purity’s new test could help reverse that trend, he said, and shows special promise in the area of health aging.

“We have got an incredible problem with deficiencies in this country,” he said. “About 90% of the senior population is deficient in vitamin D.”  When figuring that into vitamin D’s role in bone health, it amounts to a health crisis, he said.

“The leading cause of death for people over the age of 65 is falls,” Humphrey said.   

Related topics: Research, Vitamins & premixes, Bone & joint health, Healthy aging