The need for rapid diagnostic tests has been made clear. Rapid self-tests are being used around the world. The samples are dissolved in a solvent and applied to the kit.
The kit hasAbsorbent material that moves the sample downstream and brings it into contact with an antibody. A colored line appears if the target antigen is present. The same thing happens with pregnant tests.
The tests are cheap and do not require specialized equipment. There are situations in which a simple "yes or no" answer is required, but these devices have limited application. A new type of platform with more capabilities has been created by the researchers at KU Leuven in Belgium, led by Professor Rob Ameloot.
A small block made from a porous polymer was used to make a 3D version of a flow test. At precise locations, different properties of ink were printed. In this way, a network of channels and small locks were printed that let the flow through or block it where and when necessary.
The sample is guided through the different test steps during the test The structure allows complex protocols to be followed. Cesar Parra-Cabrera, one of the authors on the study, said that 3D printing can be used to adapt a test to detect a cancer biomarker. It doesn't matter how complex the network of channels is for a 3D printer.
The team used the technique to detect IgE, a biomolecule that is used to diagnose allergies. In the lab, a skilled technician needs to run several steps with different rinses and a change in acidity to complete the test. The team was able to run the entire protocol using a printed test kit the size of a credit card, which is affordable and easy to scale.
If we can scale up the test, it would cost less than $1 in the US. In countries where the medical infrastructure is less accessible and where there is a strong need for affordable diagnostic tests, the technique can offer opportunities for cheaper and faster diagnosis. The group is designing a 3D printer that will be more flexible than the commercial model used in the current study.
A mobile mini factory which can quickly produce diagnostics is what an optimal printer is like. loading a different design file and ink could create different types of tests. Bart van Duffel, innovation manager, said they want to continue their research on diagnostic challenges and applications with the help of partners. The 3D Printing of Monolithic CapillarityDriven Microfluidic Devices for Diagnostics is a reference.
Adapted from press release provided by KU Leuven.