"We are simplifying and miniaturizing the analytical processes so we can do this work in the field, away from traditional laboratories, with very fast analysis times, and at a greatly reduced cost," said Landers, a University of Virginia professor of chemistry and mechanical engineering and associate professor of pathology.
Landers published a review this month of his research and the emerging field of lab-on-a-chip technology in the journal Analytical Chemistry.
"This area of research has matured enough during the last five years to allow us to seriously consider future possibilities for devices that would allow sample-in, answer-out capabilities from almost anywhere," he said.
Landers and a team of researchers at U.Va., including mechanical and electrical engineers, with input from pathologists and physicians, are designing a hand-held device — based on a unit the size of a microscope slide — that houses many of the analytical tools of an entire laboratory, in extreme miniature. The unit can test, for example, a pin-prick-size droplet of blood, and within an hour provide a DNA analysis.
"In creating these automated micro-fluidic devices, we can now begin to do macro-chemistry at the microscale," Landers said.
Such a device could be used in a doctor's office, for example, to quickly test for an array of infectious diseases, such as anthrax, avian flu or HIV, as well as for cancer or genetic defects. Because of the quick turn-around time, a patient would be able to wait only a short time on-site for a diagnosis. Appropriate treatment, if needed, could begin immediately.
Currently, test tube-size fluid samples are sent to external labs for analysis, usually requiring a 24- to 48-hour wait for a result.
"Time is of the essence when dealing with an infectious disease such as meningitis," Landers said. "We can greatly reduce that test time, and reduce the anxiety a patient experiences while waiting."
Landers said the research also dovetails with the trend toward "personalized medicine," in which medical care increasingly is tailored to the specific genetic profile of a patient. Such highly specialized personalized care can allow physicians to develop specific therapies for patients who might be susceptible to, for example, particular types of cancers.
Simplifying genetic testing, and reducing the costs of such tests, could help pave the way toward routine delivery of such personalized care based on an individual's genetic profile.
Hand-held micro labs also would be useful to crime scene investigators who could collect and analyze even a tiny sample of blood or semen on-site, enter the finding into a genetic database, and possibly identify the perpetrator very shortly after a crime has occurred.Likewise, agricultural biotechnologists could do very rapid genetic analysis on
"We can now do lab work in volumes that are thousands of times smaller than would normally be used in a regular lab setup, and can do it up to 100 times faster," he said. "As we improve our techniques and capabilities, the costs of fabricating these micro-analysis devices will drop enough to employ them routinely in a wide variety of settings."
Landers even envisions home DNA test kits, possibly available for purchase from pharmacies, that would allow individuals to self-test for flu or other diseases.
His colleagues at U.Va. include Mathew Begley, professor of mechanical engineering, Molly Hughes, assistant professor of internal medicine, and Sanford Feldman, director of the Center for Comparative Medicine.
Fariss Samarrai | Newswise Science News
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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