Researchers in California are reporting development of a fast, inexpensive test suitable for home use that could help millions of people avoid those out of the blue headaches that may follow consumption of certain red wines, cheese, chocolate, and other aged or fermented foods.
The test is designed to detect the presence of so-called biogenic amines, naturally occurring toxins that can trigger a wide range of symptoms in sensitive individuals from nasty headaches to life-threatening episodes of high-blood pressure.
Existing tests for biogenic amines can take several hours, are cumbersome and require large, expensive instruments found only in laboratories, the researchers say. The new test, based on lab-on-a-chip technology, could produce results within five minutes, they state. It will be described in the Nov. 1 issue of ACS Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.
These toxins can be a serious health problem and are more common than people think, says study leader Richard A. Mathies, Ph.D., a chemist with the University of California, Berkeley. They are hidden in a wide variety of foods. Having a quick, convenient way to identify them will help consumers avoid them or at least limit their intake.
Biogenic amines include tyramine, histamine, and phenylethylamine, which have been known to cause nausea, headaches, and respiratory disorders. These toxins can be particularly dangerous in people with reduced monoamine oxidase (MAO) activity or those taking MAO inhibitors, an older class of antidepressant medications, because they can potentially interact and cause dangerously high blood pressure. Having a quick testing kit could ultimately save lives in these individuals, Mathies suggests.
The new technique, called portable microchip capillary electrophoresis, involves labeling the sample with a fluorescent dye, separating the components by applying an electric field on a special microchip, and analyzing the patter
|Contact: Michael Bernstein|
American Chemical Society