Lab-on-a-chip provides instant disease diagnosis

IBM scientists have developed a simple, quick ‘lab-on-a-chip’ that can test for a number of diseases using microscopic samples.

The test is claimed to be faster and more portable than previous tests. It uses capillary forces to draw blood or serum through the chip and checks for the presence of disease markers – typically proteins specific to particular diseases.

It can test for flu, poisoning, cancer and even cardiovascular disease.

The chip, which measures just one centimeter by five, contains sets of micrometer-wide channels where the test sample flows through in approximately 15 seconds, several times faster then traditional tests. Uniquely, the filling speed can be adjusted to several minutes when the chip needs extra time to read a more complex disease marker.

Each channel contains the antibodies for a different disease; where the disease is present, the antibody binds to it and emits light which is detected by a fluorescence reader.

“This point of care test has achieved the trifecta for medical staff in that it is portable, fast and requires a very small volume of sample,” comments Emmanuel Delamarche, an IBM research scientist in Zurich. “We are giving back precious minutes to doctors so they can make informed and accurate decisions right at the time they need them most to save lives”.

The research appears in Lab on a Chip.