A lab in your pocket

May 07, 2014 by Marcia Goodrich
Two computer-generated configurations for routing a droplet through multiple lab-on-a-chip diagnostic tests, many more than are currently possible using manual methods. The software was developed by Michigan Tech's Shiyan Hu and Chen Liao. The figure is reproduced with permission of IEEE Transactions on NanoBioscience. Credit: Chen Liao and Shiyan Hu

When you get sick, your physician may take a sample of your blood, send it to the lab and wait for results. In the near future, however, doctors may be able to run those tests almost instantly on a piece of plastic about the size of credit card.

These labs-on-a-chip would not only be quick—results are available in minutes—but also inexpensive and portable. They could be used miles from the nearest medical clinic to test for anything from HIV to diabetes. But as powerful as they may be, they could be far better, says Shiyan Hu, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University.

Generally, a lab-on-a-chip (LOC) can run no more than a test or two. That's because the chips are designed manually, says Hu. If the LOC were made using , you could run dozens of tests with a single drop of blood.

"In a very short time, you could test for many conditions," he said. "This really would be an entire lab on a chip."

With PhD student Chen Liao, Hu has taken the first step. "We have developed software to design the hardware," he said. Their work focuses on routing the droplet of blood or other fluid through each on the chip efficiently while avoiding any chip contamination.

"It has taken us four years to do the software, but to manufacture the LOC would be inexpensive," Hu said. "The materials are very cheap, and the results are more accurate than a conventional lab's."

Ultimately, Hu aims to fabricate their own biochip using their software.

Their work was featured on the cover of the March edition of IEEE Transactions on Nanobiosciences and described in the article "Physical-Level Synthesis for Digital Lab-On-a-Chip Considering Variation, Contamination, and Defect."

Explore further: Lab tests made cheaper with chips

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lab tests made cheaper with chips

Mar 14, 2014

(Phys.org) —University of New South Wales PhD candidate Ryan Pawell hopes a manufacturing technique he created will cut the cost of medical diagnostics to a few dollars per experiment or test.

Lab-on-fiber could shine light on disease

Mar 25, 2014

(Phys.org) —"Imagine turning on your home lab kit, pricking your finger, and blotting the blood on an array of fiber probes. In just a few minutes, the machine would automatically e-mail the results to ...

Put a lab on a chip

Nov 29, 2012

Need some blood work done? There might soon be an app for that.

Researcher discovers new regulatory autism gene

Jul 01, 2013

A new study by Valerie Hu, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), reports that RORA, a novel candidate ...

Recommended for you

The origins of handedness in life

19 hours ago

Handedness is a complicated business. To simply say life is left-handed doesn't even begin to capture the blooming hierarchy of binary refinements it continues to evolve. Over the years there have been numerous ...

Have our bodies held the key to new antibiotics all along?

22 hours ago

As the threat of antibiotic resistance grows, scientists are turning to the human body and the trillion or so bacteria that have colonized us—collectively called our microbiota—for new clues to fighting microbial infections. ...

Characterizing an important reactive intermediate

Oct 01, 2014

An international group of researchers led by Dr. Warren E. Piers (University of Calgary) and Dr. Heikki M. Tuononen (University of Jyväskylä) has been able to isolate and characterize an important chemical ...

User comments : 0