Image: Caffeine mug from
Scientists have developed a detection technique that can measure the amount of caffeine in hot liquids, such as coffee.
By LiveScience managing editor
updated 5/12/2006 1:38:06 PM ET 2006-05-12T17:38:06

While it might seem strange scientists would think to develop dipsticks to measure caffeine, how they're making them is even weirder.

How about three llamas and two camels.

Both types of animals, called camelids by scientists, are among the few whose immune systems produce antibodies that are not destroyed by hot coffee. We did not look into who figured that out, or why.

Anyway, the researchers injected proteins linked to caffeine into the five beasts to elicit an immune response. The animals produced antibodies in their blood that were reactive to caffeine. Then in the lab, these antibodies were found to accurately indicate the amount of caffeine in hot coffee and also cold cola.

More work needs to be done to move the technique from the lab, via caffeine dipsticks. But that's the goal.

"We believe our test would be the first consumer test for caffeine and would be beneficial for anyone wishing to avoid caffeine for health or personal reasons," said lead researcher Jack Ladenson of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

You would not need camels or llamas to do this at home. The antibodies could be copied in the lab. You could even take the dipsticks into the coffee shop.

"Unlike other methods for measuring caffeine, which require large and expensive laboratory equipment, this test is potentially adaptable to a format that people could carry with them," Ladenson said.

The research is detailed in the June 1 issue of the American Chemical Society's journal Analytical Chemistry.

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