Show/hide main menu


News Highlights

New screening method developed

Posted on 16/11/2011

Blood cells

Scientists have developed a rapid method that can be used to simultaneously screen patients for a range of genetic and acquired clinical conditions from a single dried blood spot. 

The test uses a highly sensitive and specific technique, known as mass spectrometry, to simultaneously analyse proteins, enzymes and metabolites in the blood, without the need for the large liquid blood samples currently used. Collection of dried blood spots is less invasive for patients and the costs and biohazards associated with sample transport, processing and storage are minimised.

Researchers at King’s College London, together with clinicians from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, as part of King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre, have built on their innovative approaches to dried blood spot screening for inherited metabolic disease and sickle cell disease in newborn babies. This approach can now be used in the early detection and clinical monitoring of chronic health problems, including kidney and heart disease and diabetes.

King’s has today officially launched a spin-out company, SpotOn Clinical Diagnostics Ltd, to provide both analytical services and technical support for other clinical laboratories, many of which already have appropriate mass spectrometry instrumentation, to offer this new method.

Requiring only a drop of blood from a simple finger-prick, or heel-prick in newborns, this new blood spot analysis method has many potential applications:

• The method is faster, more specific, and cheaper than the methods currently used to screen all 750,000 babies born each year in the UK for sickle cell disease and other clinically significant haemoglobinopathies (abnormalities in haemoglobin within the blood). The current methods for ante-natal screening for sickle cell disease and thalassaemia require fresh liquid blood samples, which are more expensive to process, store and transport. 

• The method has already been successfully used to provide rapid diagnosis of a comprehensive range of inherited metabolic diseases in acutely ill children admitted to intensive care with life-threatening symptoms.

• Pre-symptomatic screening for chronic health problems will introduce personalised clinical diagnostics and cost-effective early detection and monitoring of diabetes and kidney and heart disease.

Dried urine spots can also be used for the very early detection of kidney disease, particularly in patients with a high risk of developing renal complications, for example patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

The test works by converting proteins to peptides and then using a mass spectrometer to select and accurately measure diagnostic metabolites and/or peptides. Liquid blood and urine samples can also be screened using the method.

Compared with conventional clinical laboratory diagnostics the major advantages of the new method are that the measurements for proteins and metabolites can be done simultaneously with both high accuracy and sensitivity. Dried blood spots and/or dried urine spots offer significant cost savings in the logistics of sample collection, transport to the laboratory, sample processing, and storage.

Neil Dalton, Professor of Paediatric Biochemistry at King’s, and co-founder of SpotOn, said: 'The lessons we have learned from universal pre-symptomatic screening of newborn babies using dried blood spots can now be cost-effectively applied to provide a personalised medicine approach to the early diagnosis and clinical monitoring of major chronic health problems like diabetes and kidney and heart disease.'

The two founding organisations behind SpotOn, King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, are part of King’s Health Partners, one of the UK’s five Academic Health Sciences Centres (AHCSs). SpotOn is an example of how academic innovation can be seamlessly translated into clinical practice and a commercial proposition. It is the result of successful collaboration between academic, clinical and commercialisation teams.

Notes to editors

For further information please contact Emma Reynolds, Press Officer at King’s College London, on 0207 848 4334 or email

SpotOn Clincial Diagnostics Limited

The company has been formed to exploit the commercial potential of patents arising from the innovative work of Neil Dalton and Charles Turner on the application of mass spectrometry for cost-effective population screening.

The method for sickle cell disease and haemoglobinopathy screening using mass spectrometry was granted an EU patent in 2010.

For more information on King's see our 'King's in Brief' page

Rss Feed Atom Feed

News Highlights:

News Highlights...RSS FeedAtom Feed

Cancer protection same as allergies

Cancer protection same as allergies

Scientists at King's have found that the body's surveillance for cancer causing damage and its response to allergies share a common pathway, according to research published in the journal, Science.
FameLab at King's

FameLab at King's

Lucy Thorne, a final year PhD student in Virology at Imperial College London has won the London Heat of FameLab UK 2012, a national competition to find new voices of science communication.
Groundbreaking for research institute

Groundbreaking for research institute

King's College London on Monday broke ground on an innovative facility that will accelerate neuroscience research, with a goal to fast-track the development of treatments for people suffering from disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and epilepsy.

Share this story:


Follow Us


Live Twitter feed...

Join the conversation
Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions Privacy policy Accessibility Modern slavery statement Contact us

© 2017 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454