May 30, 2012
Microfluidic Device Detects Leukemia Or HIV

By doing counts of different types of blood cells a microfluidic device holds the potential to lower the cost of diagnosing some blood diseases.

Inexpensive, portable devices that can rapidly screen cells for leukemia or HIV may soon be possible thanks to a chip that can produce three-dimensional focusing of a stream of cells, according to researchers.

"HIV is diagnosed based on counting CD4 cells," said Tony Jun Huang, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics, Penn State. "Ninety percent of the diagnoses are done using flow cytometry."

Huang and his colleagues designed a mass-producible device that can focus particles or cells in a single stream and performs three different optical assessments for each cell. They believe the device represents a major step toward low-cost flow cytometry chips for clinical diagnosis in hospitals, clinics and in the field.

Microfluidic devices will cut the costs of most laboratory tests. They'll also accelerate the rate of advance of biological science and biotechnology. This bodes well for the development of rejuvenation therapies.

These researchers think they can eventually replace $100k machines with $1k machines.

"The full potential of flow cytometry as a clinical diagnostic tool has yet to be realized and is still in a process of continuous and rapid development," the team said in a recent issue of Biomicrofluidics. "Its current high cost, bulky size, mechanical complexity and need for highly trained personnel have limited the utility of this technique."

Flow cytometry typically looks at cells in three ways using optical sensors. Flow cytometers use a tightly focused laser light to illuminate focused cells and to produce three optical signals from each cell. These signals are fluorescence from antibodies bound to cells, which reveals the biochemical characteristics of cells; forward scattering, which provides the cell size and its refractive index; and side scattering, which provides cellular granularity. Processing these signals allows diagnosticians to identify individual cells in a mixed cell population, identify fluorescent markers and count cells and other analysis to diagnose and track the progression of HIV, cancer and other diseases.

"Current machines are very expensive costing $100,000," said Huang. "Using our innovations, we can develop a small one that could cost about $1,000."

We need huge reductions in medical testing costs so that medical testing can move into the home. You should be able to get tested daily in your bathroom with your test results uploaded to a diagnostic server. The diagnostic server should run a large set of expert systems for medical diagnosis and disease treatment recommendations.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 May 30 09:52 PM  Biotech Microfluidics

PacRim Jim said at May 31, 2012 12:49 AM:

Like other hypochondriacs, I can't wait to strap on a 24x7 disease detector. Now all I need is my doctor's cell phone number.

bmack500 said at May 31, 2012 7:11 AM:

Microfluidics certainly holds vast potential... $$

Randall Parker said at May 31, 2012 7:20 PM:

PacRim Jim,

I won't watch my own readings. I'll let the expert systems decide when to alert me.


I hope the sales of microfluidics take off because that'll drive their rapid refinement and improvement. We need microfluidics in order to accelerate the rate of development of rejuvenation therapies.

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