August 01, 2011
Microfluidic Chip For Medical Testing In Remote Regions

Of course it will work in a suburban tract home too.

New York, NY—July 31, 2011—Samuel K. Sia, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, has developed an innovative strategy for an integrated microfluidic-based diagnostic device—in effect, a lab-on-a-chip—that can perform complex laboratory assays, and do so with such simplicity that these tests can be carried out in the most remote regions of the world. In a paper published in Nature Medicine online on July 31, Sia presents the first published field results on how microfluidics—the manipulation of small amounts of fluids—and nanoparticles can be successfully leveraged to produce a functional low-cost diagnostic device in extreme resource-limited settings.

Sia and his team performed testing in Rwanda over the last four years in partnership with Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health and three local non-government organizations in Rwanda, targeting hundreds of patients. His device, known as mChip (mobile microfluidic chip), requires only a tiny finger prick of blood, effective even for a newborn, and gives—in less than 15 minutes—quantitative objective results that are not subject to user interpretation. This new technology significantly reduces the time between testing patients and treating them, providing medical workers in the field results that are much easier to read at a much lower cost. New low-cost diagnostics like the mChip could revolutionize medical care around the world.

The chip is expected to cost $1 and the reader device $100. Imagine the ability to plug the chip into a future generation smart phone and test yourself to find out whether you have a bacterial or viral infection. Or test yourself to find out whether your diet of late has done bad things to your blood lipids and blood sugar.

30 years from now (if not much sooner) most medical testing will be done before you show up in a doctor's office. Your data will get uploaded to a expert system diagnostic server. You will show up for a doctor's appointment for treatment when necessary. I expect in the longer run most doctors will shift their attention to delivering rejuvenation therapies rather than diagnosing common illnesses. Diagnostics expert systems running in cloud computers will do most of the work for illnesses unrelated to aging.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 August 01 08:05 AM  Biotech Assay Tools

Michael Caton said at August 1, 2011 12:22 PM:

This is great. The real question is whether it will be available to consumers. I would LOVE to use these for myself. For those of us with a bad Jack in the Box addiction, watching your triglycerides and LDL go up after an unhealthy meal would provide excellent negative feedback - but in the current climate I'm concerned that regulatory agencies would not allow us to have access to our own health data.

Phillep Harding said at August 2, 2011 5:27 PM:

The laws and regulations currently being misused ("Lemonaide stands"?) were, according to the people writing them, not intended to be applied with such, zeal. Those of us who warned of the implications were called "Chicken Littles".

However. If something is not in writing, it does not have force of law. What is in writing does have force of law. What someone said in a bar regarding a law or regulation he helped write does not have force of law. Nor does common sense.

Merely being denied access to health data is just the beginning of what I can see happening. The entry point I see is monitoring convicted drug addicts, and it could easily go on to blood sugar or alcohol, or nicotine. Or sex (for child molestors, to start).

Nanonymous said at August 2, 2011 9:38 PM:

Of the many biotech promises that are hyped relentlessly for the past decade or so, two stand out as being certain to deliver - microfluidics and stem cells. The huge potential of microfluidic setups will be realized very soon, within 5-10 years. Doubt the chips will ever go for $1 though. $10 is more likely. Compare to blood glucose test strips - they are really very, very primitive and unlike microfluidic devices they don't require much of the manufacturing prowess. They still sell for roughly a quarter a piece.

teapartydoc said at August 4, 2011 5:36 AM:

If this is not available to consumers, I will personally create a black market for these devices. Just keep me posted.

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