Miniature Lab Can Diagnose Disease in the Field

Thursday, August 4, 2011

People who live in the poorest and remotest parts of the developing world often have their lives cut short by disease — preventable or curable disease. The first essential step to fighting these diseases is correctly identifying them. But in the developing world, disease detection is often prohibitively expensive. In a brilliant cross-pollination of engineering, physics and biology, scientists have developed an affordable credit-card sized device that can accurately diagnose HIV and syphilis in just minutes.

This device, known as the microfluidic chip, or mChip, requires just one microlitre of whole blood to detect specific diseases with comparable efficiency to bench-top assays but at a significantly lower cost. Further, mChip detection takes less than 20 minutes, whereas bench-top assays require several hours or more to complete. Developed by an international team of scientists headed by Samuel Sia, associate professor of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University in New York City, mChip was successfully field tested in the African nation of Rwanda.

“The microfluidic design is very simple”, said Dr Sia. “It’s essentially a .. linear channel that’s been looped around in various ways.”

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