Cystic Fibrosis Breakthrough at Case Western

As the father of a newly-minted teenager, I’ve come to understand all too well the fleeting nature of childhood “firsts”: First words, first steps, first artwork, and other moments in time I’d dearly love to relive. These are the things in life that are worth waiting for, and I always tell new parents not to be too eager to get to these moments; instead, slow down and enjoy the journey.

There is one very significant exception, though. If your child has a serious condition like cystic fibrosis (CF), you NEED to know as soon as possible. Preferably immediately; really, yesterday would be best.

Today, the best method for diagnosing CF in a newborn is a sweat test that looks for abnormal levels of chloride. Unfortunately, babies just don’t produce the amount of sweat needed for an accurate test result until they’re at least three months old—and by then, symptoms have emerged and CF has already started damaging the lungs. If the diagnostic process could be sped up, treatment could begin before the first symptoms emerge.

Now, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University may be on the verge of doing just that. As Cystic Fibrosis News Today reports, a trio of faculty members were recently selected to receive funding from the National Center for Accelerated Innovation (NCAI) in order to research and develop new tech for CF (as well as inexpensive, portable diagnostic tools to detect sickle cell anemia and malaria in poorer countries).

Miklos Gratzl, who teaches biomedical engineering, is leading the cystic fibrosis team working on a device that would let doctors perform a sweat test requiring just two micro-liters. That would mean that instead of waiting three months to test newborns for CF, doctors could do it in as little as two weeks.

With that short of a turnaround time, treatment can begin much, much sooner, giving babies with CF the chance for a healthier start in life. Sure, two and a half to three months may not seem like much. But when you’re dealing with a disease like CF, every moment saved upfront can mean many more moments to fill with happier memories later on. And those are the moment parents really want to remember.


Read more in Cystic Fibrosis News Today. Then find out what other research is taking place at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine. Share this post for Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month!

Ronald Ledsen

Ronald Ledsen

After emigrating from his native Sweden, Ronald spent a stint in the Merchant Marines while trying to work out what he wanted to do with his life. He discovered a love of writing while helping a friend write anonymous Harry Potter fan-fiction online; he discovered meaning to his writing when he began journaling after an anxiety disorder diagnosis. Ronald is most relaxed when spending quiet time with his wife, two sons, and hyperactive cat.

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