Against the need to have portable diagnostic devices that are cheap and operable outside hospitals in very remote areas, EPFL has come up with a lost-cost and portable microfluidic diagnostic device that can get the job done – having been tested and performed okay for Ebola testing. It was published in ACS Nano.
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Microfluidic devices are made of silicone rubber and contain tiny channels not larger than the width of a hair. These diagnostic devices have proven effective in several trials over the years, and they have demonstrated a reliable potential to detect various diseases in tiny blood samples by identifying given biomarkers.
This device was developed at EPFL’s Laboratory of Biological Network Characterization (LBNC) with the research team led by Sebastian Maerkl.
This small device uses battery power and works perfectly with microscopes to detect various diseases with high accuracy. It is able to detect up to 16 different biomarkers of diseases or molecules within a tiny sample of blood. These biomarkers could be enzymes, proteins, hormones, and metabolites and the amount or concentration of these biomarkers indicates the medical condition of the patient.
This portable diagnostic tool operates both digital and analog detection mechanisms; digital detection is best for detecting a single biomarker with high accuracy, but analog detection is best for analyzing larger concentrations of given biomarkers. Both mechanisms can be used simultaneously to obtain the early diagnosis and the actual stage of a given condition.
Another excellent thing with this diagnostic device is that it can test blood samples directly and detect biomarkers instantly without the need to separate blood plasma, something that requires centrifuges and a larger blood sample that takes take to process any other way.
"For researchers, it is quite interesting to be able to avoid having to separate the blood," said Francesco Piraino, the article's lead author. "The platform will lead the development of new kinds of tests to meet the increasing demand for on-site diagnostic testing. It will prove very useful for medical staff working in resource-limited regions."