Electronic Design

Scientists Develop Portable Lab-On-Chip Device For Genetic Testing

Canadian scientists have developed a portable lab-on-a-chip that has the same genetic testing capability as a laboratory full of expensive equipment. University of Alberta Professors Christopher Backhouse and Linda Pilarski, along with research student Govind Kaigala, said the device can provide a wide variety of genetic tests that are available but not often used because their high cost. The heart of the unit, the chip, looks like a standard microscope slide etched with fine silver and gold lines. That microfabricated chip applies nano-biotechnologies within tiny volumes, sometimes working with only a few molecules of sample. Because of this highly integrated chip (which contains microfluidics and microscale devices), the remainder of the system is fast and inexpensive at $1,000. Backhouse compared the development of the device that is about the size of a shoe box to the development of computers. "In the early days of computers, they were inaccessible — million-dollar beasts that filled a room and you needed a Ph.D. to be able to operate one," he said. "We've applied the same miniaturization technologies to healthcare that were applied to computers by coming up with portable, lab-on-a-chip technologies that are easy to use." An article describing the creation of the technology appears in the Jan. 18 issue of The Analyst, a scientific journal published by the Royal Society of Chemistry based in the United Kingdom.

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