The Silicon Review
Throughout our entire planet, the environment is facing vast and complex adversities, in particular those directly affecting the environment, wildlife and humans alike.
TrichAnalytics faces these challenges on a microscopic scale. Its focus is on the analysis of biological tissues, notably hair where elements bind readily to both the root and the shaft. With the use of laser ablation, hundreds if not thousands of concentrations can be detected and analyzed in order to determine the “metal” health of that animal or individual.
What can be unveiled at such diminutive levels reveals not only the elements of each organism, but also unravels the details of its life story. Under a microscope, a seemingly invisible world comes to life and can shed vast illumination on metal accumulation in our wildlife living in contaminated environments as well as workers in at-risk jobs. As a result, such analysis can help findlong-term solutions to environmental and human health challenges.
To monitor nutritional balance and exposure to toxic metals, most conventional analysis focuses on bulk, invasive, and sometimes, painful and lethal, sampling approaches that are not always providing reliable health information.
Dr. Jennie Christensen (CEO and Co-founder) has been developing non-invasive monitoring strategies for contaminant exposure since 2000, and in 2016 decided to start TrichAnalytics which relies solely on non-invasive analysis, while at the same time providing more precise information on exposure to toxic metals. The syndicate’s main tissue to monitor is hair (‘Trich’ in greek); in fact, only a single strand of hair is required. As hair grows,it records the changes in elements and metals present in the blood, so it is essentially a tickertape of information about your health from the past up to the present.
“We call our method “time travel”, because we can take somebody’s hair and go back hours, days, weeks, months, even years in some cases, and examine dietary patterns, nutritional balance, and heavy metal exposure over time. Everybody’s hair has a unique story to tell, and TrichAnalytics can provide the key to unlock people’s own personal time machine,” says Christensen.
Apropos initial service
TrichAnalytics Inc. not only conducts analysis on human tissues (hair and nails), but also provides analysis for wildlife tissues which was the company’s first service. It analyzes mammal hair to look at seasonal variation in diet and exposure to metals near industrial developments; TrichAnalytics analyzes bird feathers to look at exposure to various metals along the bird’s migratory route; it analyzes microscopic invertebrates to characterize metal uptake from water and algae near effluent discharges; and analyzes fish ear stones that accumulate metals over time like a tree ring to monitor sometimes 20+ years of metal exposure in the fish’s lifetime.
The company’s lasers are 0.05mm wide and analyzing tissues that grow allows obtaining temporal information about exposure that otherwise remains hidden.
Currently there are no labs like TrichAnalytics anywhere in North America. The company works at such a microscopic scale that much of its work is completely non-invasive, so regulators who want to push for non-invasive wildlife monitoring techniques now have options available to recommend to industry and consultants.
The TrichAnalytics team provides very involved service to help its clients design their monitoring programs integrating its specialized analysis, and aim to have exemplary customer service. While the company has succeeded in this for each of its clients so far, it also asks for feedback on how better to provide their results to the customers in terms of turnaround time, formats, and graphing options.
Additionally, some of its clients have unique environmental challenges where neither the company, nor others have developed the methods to address them. That is where the company’s Research and Development program kicks in. It works with the client to develop a unique analysis for a special species or tissue type that will address their specific needs.
The company’s biggest challenge is public and industry education, as its techniques are new and not yet integrated into the mainstream. Education through conferences, public speaking engagements, trade shows, publications,and social media takes time. The company also must battle against the opinion of many that hair mineral analysis is “quackery” – BUT that opinion is based on old technology that the company agrees can be very inaccurate. TrichAnalytics is different;more accurate, more recent and timely, and more informative.
Rationale behind success
Determination to succeed – it is challenging starting a company with many unknowns and roadblocks, as well as huge financial hurdles that make taking leaps very scary. You need to believe in yourself and your ideas, set panic aside, think clearly and rationally, and move forward with positivity.
Adaptability to changing markets, needs, and situations – it is never possible to know what will come at you at any given time. Part of the company’s strength is its adaptability to be creative and original when confronting new challenges.
Passion – “I’m not the type of person who can easily work at tasks that I find boring, same old – same old, and monotonous. I need to work on projects that I am completely passionate about, that I know I will learn something from, and that will ultimately make me better as a person and scientist. Passion about my work keeps me going when times get challenging,” Dr.Jennie Christensen.
Greet the laudable persona: Dr. Jennie Christensen, CEO and Co-founder Jennie has an MSc and PhD in Toxicology and over twelve years of environmental consulting experience, mainly related to wildlife biomonitoring and toxicology. Understanding metal uptake by wildlife and humans is one of Jennie’s professional passions, and this is reflected in her commitment to these types of projects over the last decade. She has conducted contaminant and metal uptake projects on bears, otters, small mammals, fish, amphibians, birds, and humans. She realized the gap in current commercial laboratory analysis and started TrichAnalytics to improve analysis and management for better global environmental and human health using non-invasive methods.
"We use advanced laser technology and elemental analysis on “growing” biological tissues to monitor temporal changes in metal exposure, diet and health of wildlife species and humans."