UNO Researcher Earns Grant to Invent Real-Time Testosterone Testing Device

A University of New Orleans psychology professor has been awarded a $19,850 grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents to invent a testosterone-testing device that will be able to deliver accurate results in real time. Elizabeth Shirtcliff, early research professor of psychology, is the principal investigator on the project. She is working with researchers from Oasis Diagnostic Corporation in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"Everyone has their own testosterone level, but this can change quickly. When it does, it can also change our behavior. This device will provide the chance to see those changes in testosterone right away," Shirtcliff said.

The project is called "An Innovative Tool to Improve Testosterone Measurement for Human Research." The device will test human saliva in quick, easy and noninvasive manner and will yield quantitative results that closely match the accuracy of those achieved in a laboratory setting.

According to Shirtcliff, testosterone is recognized for changing risky decision-making propensities in humans, especially teens. Testosterone increases the likelihood that a person is motivated to seek rewards, risks or status-oriented behaviors. This research is limited, however, because it is currently impossible to calculate a person's testosterone levels until days or weeks later when samples are tested in a laboratory. Developing a noninvasive, point-of-care saliva collection device to get real-time testosterone results will open up windows of opportunity to learn about this sex steroid hormone, Shirtcliff said.

This project will generate new, innovative technology that builds on an earlier prototype—developed by Shirtcliff and researchers at Oasis Diagnostic—that tests levels of cortisol, another steroid hormone similar to testosterone.

The research is funded by a grant from Louisiana EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), which is a National Science Foundation program that is designed to build and expand the science and engineering research, education, and technology capabilities in states that have historically received lesser amounts of federal research and development funding.