Lab-on-a-chip small as credit card can give you blood test results in minutes


Scientists have developed a new type of blood testing equipment that can fit inside a doctor's coat pocket. The new lab-on-a-chip blood testing device could soon revolutionize the way blood tests are carried out.

For people suffering from certain types of conditions or illnesses, having a blood test taken involves drawing blood using a syringe or a fingerprick. However, it doesn't end there. Once the blood sample is taken, it will be sent to a lab for the actual test. While the tests are being conducted, patients will have to wait a while before the test results come out. Researchers from the Michigan Technological University have come up with a device that could spell the end of traditional blood testing procedures.

The new testing system uses something called a lab-on-a-chip (LOC). This type of portable equipment is easy to carry around and can process blood samples in just a few minutes. Moreover, the new system is also cost effective and inexpensive to manufacture. The new LOC was featured in the March issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Nanobiosciences.

"In a very short time, you could test for many conditions," said Michigan Technological University associate professor of electrical and computer engineering Shiyan Hu. "This really would be an entire lab on a chip."

The researchers that developed the LOC say that it could soon be used to test for a wide variety of conditions including diabetes and even HIV. Since the system can easily be carried around, it could also revolutionize how doctors practice their profession in the field. The portability of the system would make it invaluable for field hospitals, military doctors and medics as well as medical professionals conducting outreach programs in far flung areas.

"It has taken us four years to do the software, but to manufacture the LOC would be inexpensive," Hu said. "The materials are very cheap, and the results are more accurate than a conventional lab's."

While the LOC is still currently under development, it took the researchers around 4 years to complete the software required to design the necessary hardware. However, the materials needed to actually produce a prototype are very inexpensive. The researchers used the software they created to route a small sample of blood through each of the tests that a LOC would contain. One of the main challenges of designing the LOC was keeping the chip from getting contaminated. The researchers are now aiming to produce a working prototype in the near future.

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