‘Lab-on-a-chip’ device to cut health tests costs

Washington, Sep 13 (IANS) US engineers have developed a breakthrough device that can significantly reduce the cost of sophisticated lab tests for medical disorders and diseases, such as HIV, Lyme disease and syphilis.

The new device, developed by Rutgers University, uses miniaturised channels and valves to replace “benchtop” assays.

Dubbed “ELISA-on-a-chipa”, a single device analyses 32 samples at once and can measure widely varying concentrations of as many as six proteins in a sample.

There are tests that require large samples of blood or other fluids and expensive chemicals that lab technicians manually mix in trays of tubes or plastic plates with cup-like depressions.

“The main advantage is cost. These assays are done in labs and clinics everywhere,” said Mehdi Ghodbane who earned his doctorate in biomedical engineering at Rutgers.

The lab-on-chip device, which employs micro-fluidics technology, opens doors for new research because of its capability to perform complex analyses using 90 percent less sample fluid than needed in conventional tests.

“A great deal of research has been hindered because in many cases one is not able to extract enough fluid,” Ghodbane said.

Until now, animal research on central nervous system disorders, such as spinal cord injury and Parkinson’s disease, has been limited because researchers could not extract sufficient cerebrospinal fluid to perform conventional assays.

“With our technology, researchers will be able to perform large-scale controlled studies with comparable accuracy to conventional assays,” the authors wrote.

The discovery could also lead to more comprehensive research on autoimmune joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis through animal studies.

As with spinal fluid, the amount of joint fluid, or synovial fluid, researchers are able to collect from lab animals is minuscule.

The results were published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal called Lab.

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