Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Disease-detecting lab in the palm of your hand

01.07.2008
Detecting food-borne diseases such as campylobacter and salmonella long before they enter the food chain would help ensure that the dinner on your table is safe to eat.

There is no quick and simple way to detect infectious bacteria on farms, or even in food processing and distribution plants. Samples have to be sent to labs for testing, a process that can take hours or days.

But what if tests for campylobacter and salmonella could be run on the spot in as little as half an hour? The result, say European researchers, would undoubtedly be a dramatic improvement in food safety.

Campylobacter and salmonella are particularly nasty bacteria that are responsible for most cases of food poisoning around the world.

The idea of a lab-on-a-chip, a device small enough for someone to carry around but able to perform many of the tests normally carried out in a full-sized laboratory, has been around ever since microelectromechanical systems (mems) technology made it possible to put sensors, fluid channels and optical components into a small space.

However, the costs of producing such a system and the failure of many developers to incorporate a means of preparing samples on the spot has meant that few have gone into commercial use.

From testing food to detecting disease
A team of European researchers has addressed those problems, creating one of only two prototype systems in the world that prepare samples and perform DNA tests on bacteria in a portable, easy-to-use and cost-effective chip.

Their work, carried out in the EU-funded OptoLabCard project, will lead to the development of portable devices that can detect bacteria in the food chain and diseases as diverse as cancer, hepatitis, AIDS and flu in humans. Their work could also be used to develop portable devices that can identify pathogens and pollution in water supplies.

“The uses for these devices are almost endless… and the market is huge,” explains Jesús M Ruano-López, coordinator of the OptoLabCard project at Ikerlan-IK4 in Spain.

What sets the OptoLabCard prototype apart from previous devices is the material used to manufacture the components of the chip, and the way in which samples are prepared prior to testing.

Using a single material for most components – a negative thick photoresist – makes the chips simpler and cheaper to produce.

The chip itself is disposable, while a reader or base unit contains all the electronics and optics. Meanwhile, incorporating sample preparation into the chip means that users can effectively replicate laboratory processes out in the field.

“Sample preparation is perhaps the most crucial part but it was abandoned by earlier developers,” Ruano-López notes. “After all, in order to detect the presence of bacteria it is essential to have a reliable sample.”

Rubbing a swab across a chicken carcass, for example, might produce a sample containing as few as ten bacteria, an amount that could go undetected once transferred into the device.

That inability to provide a representative sample could lead to the bird or the entire batch to be deemed clean, when in reality the meat may be covered with dangerous pathogens.

To get around the problem and to improve detection accuracy, the team incorporated a method of concentrating the sample before testing. They used magnetophoresis and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique. PCR is a well-established method of replicating DNA to create higher concentrations.

“By using PCR for sample preparation we can create more concentrated bacteria samples, and because it works with DNA it means that the same device can be used to detect many different types of bacteria and diseases,” Ruano-López says.

So far the device has been used experimentally to detect salmonella in faecal samples taken from hospitals, and will soon be used in Denmark to test for campylobacter on chicken farms.

Cutting the cost of gastrointestinal infections
Testing for campylobacter is a particularly practical use for this technology because of the bacteria’s high prevalence in poultry, explains Dang Duong Bang, a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for Food and Veterinary Research, which will conduct the trial.

“If the device works as promised and leads to commercial products it will offer major benefits for farmers, processors and especially consumers,” he says.

Doung Bang points to studies that suggest the cost of treating gastrointestinal infections caused by campylobacter amount to the equivalent of €600 million in the USA and about €200 million in Britain alone each year.

Faster and more effective testing would undoubtedly reduce the number of infected animals reaching the market.

Ruano-López says a product based on the OptoLabCard prototype could be ready for use commercially within three years, but the project team are not stopping the development of the device.

Toward a lab-on-a-patch
A spin-off company, called microLIQUID has been set up to commercialise components built with SU-8, while several of the project partners have recently launched a new project, called LabOnFoil, in which they will seek to create sample processing and detection chips on foils instead of traditional silicon wafers.

This work would not only bring down the cost per test by a factor of ten, to between 50 cents and €1.50, but it could lead to skin patches able to detect and monitor disease, contamination and drug abuse, says Ruano-López. The patches would be able to be read by a smart card.

Such developments would certainly turn tiny, portable laboratories into a ubiquitous technology, able to detect disease and ensure the safety of food anywhere at any time.

OptoLabCard received funding from the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for research, while LabOnFoil is being funded by the Seventh Framework Programme.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89827

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Scientists learn more about how gene linked to autism affects brain
19.06.2018 | Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

nachricht Overdosing on Calcium
19.06.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Carbon nanotube optics provide optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing

19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

How to track and trace a protein: Nanosensors monitor intracellular deliveries

19.06.2018 | Life Sciences

New material for splitting water

19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>