In the modern era, reliable accuracy was finally achieved with the “Rabbit Test” developed by Bernhard Zondek and Selmar Aschheim in 1927. The two discovered that the presence of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) indicated pregnancy. The presence of the hormone can be found in human urine and a female rabbit can be used as a bioassay. The patient’s urine is injected into the rabbit and the rabbit’s ovaries examined for a reaction to hCG. As a result, the term “the rabbit died” became synonymous with a positive pregnancy test result. In truth, all of the rabbits used for this test took their last hop.

Resident Expert: Hawkeye from MASH* explains the rabbit test.*

Over the past few years, with a more detailed understanding of genetics, the impact of genetics in disease, and an unparalleled array of genomic and proteomic tools available, medical diagnostics have finally advanced to the molecular level. Molecular diagnostics now offer promise for patients and for the more than 500 companies around the world that market molecular diagnostic products for the human healthcare market. These technologies are profoundly influencing the discovery of new therapeutic molecules, the screening and diagnosis of patients, and the optimization of drug therapy during treatment. And, yes, these technologies are personalizing medicine.

Medical diagnostics began with simple and direct purpose. Yet, as thousands of researchers and hundreds of companies from around the world gather in Atlanta, it’s clear that the rabbit may have died, but medical diagnostics are alive and well.