Microchip powered by a smartphone is being developed for home medical diagnostic testing

Microchip powered by a smartphone is being developed for home medical diagnostic testing ...

A research group for the University of Minnesota Twin Cities has developed a new microfluidic chip for diagnosis of diseases that uses a limited amount of components and can be powered wirelessly via a smartphone. This innovation opens the way for faster and more affordable at-home medical testing.

The researchers paper is published in Natural Communications, a peer-reviewed, open access, scientific journal. Besides, researchers are collaborating to commercialize the technology.

Microfluidics involves the study and manipulation of liquids at a relatively small scale. One of the most popular industries in the field is designing lab-on-a-chip technology or the ability to develop devices that can diagnose diseases from a very small biological sample, such as blood or urine.

For one, scientists already have portable devices to diagnose some conditionsrapid COVID-19 antigen tests. However, a key obstacle to completing more advanced diagnostic chips that might, for example, identify the specific strain of COVID-19 or measure biomarkers is the fact that they require so many moving components.

Chips like these would require materials to seal the liquid inside, pumps and tubing to manipulate the liquid, and wires to activate those pumpsall materials that are difficult to scale down to the micro level. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities were able to create a microfluidic device that isn''t only bulky.

Researchers have been exceptionally successful in assessing electronic devices scaling, but the ability to handle liquid samples hasn''t been kept up, according to Sang-Hyun Oh, a member of the University of Minnesota''s Electrical and Computer Engineering division. It''s not an exaggeration that a state-of-the-art microfluidic lab-on-a-chip system is extremely labor-intensive to build. We needed to get rid of the cover material, wires, and pumps altogether, and make it simple

Many lab-on-a-chip technologies merge by moving liquid droplets across a microchip to detect viruses or pathogens inside the sample. The University of Minnesota research solution was inspired by a strange real-world phenomenon with which wine drinkers will be familiarthe legs, or long droplets that form inside a wine bottle due to surface tension caused by alcohol evaporation.

The researchers placed tiny electrodes very close together on a 2 cm by 2 cm chip, which enlivens strong electric fields that pull droplets across the chip and create a similar leg of liquid to detect molecules inside.

Because the electrodes are placed so closely together (with only 10 nanometers of space between), the resulting electric field is so strong that the chip only requires less than a volt of electricity to function. This incredibly low voltage required allowed the researchers to activate the diagnostic chip by using near-field communication signals from a smartphone, the same technique used for contactless payment in stores.

This is the first time researchers have ever had the opportunity to use a smartphone to wirelessly activate narrow channels without microfluidic structures, thus paving the way for more cost-effective, more accessible at-home diagnostic devices.

According to Christopher Ertsgaard, the scientist and a recent CSE graduate, this is a fantastic new concept. During this pandemic, I think everyone has realized the importance of at-home, rapid, point-of-care diagnostics. But there are still techniques available, but we need better scaling and high-density manufacturing. At a more affordable cost, we can add these advanced techniques to at-home diagnostics.

The Ohs lab is working with GRIP Molecular Technologies, a Minnesota startup company that manufactures home diagnostic devices, to commercialize the microchip platform. It is designed to have long-term applications for the detection of viruses, pathogens, bacteria, and other biomarkers in liquid samples.

According to Bruce Batten, the founder and president of GRIP Molecular Technologies, low voltage fluid movement, such as Professor Ohs'' achievements, helps us to meet both of these requirements. GRIP has had the good fortune to collaborate with the University of Minnesota on the development of our technology platform. Linking basic and translational research is critical to developing a pipeline of innovative, transformational products.

You may also like: