New device detects disease from just one blood drop

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A prototype device is being developed that will enable a physician to detect disease or virus from just one drop of liquid, including blood.

The device has been developed by two New Jersey Institute of Technology research professors and it has been dubbed a “lab-on-a-chip”. The scientists behind the invention are Reginald Farrow and Alokik Kanwal.

The device is a carbon nanotube based and it is designed to non-invasively and quickly detect mobile single cells, according to the research briefing. In principle, medical personnel can put a tiny drop of liquid on the active area of the device and measure the cells’ electrical properties. One of the characteristic features of a living cell is that it controls the exchange of electrically charged ions across the cell membrane; and scientists know that the pattern of electrical charges in a healthy cell changes significantly when cells are infected with disease causing pathogens.

To test out the device, trials have been run using human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells, neurons from mice, and yeast cells.

The research was originally funded by the military as a means to identify biological warfare agents, although it is now seen as having great potential for general medical use. The potential may not only stop there. The researchers speculate that being able to position single carbon nanotubes that have specific properties opens the door to further possibilities such as an artificial pancreas, three-dimensional electronic circuits and nanoscale fuel cells with unparalleled energy density (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter).

Source: Digital Journal (link opens in a new window)

Health Care