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University, Board Maker Partner on Point-of-Care Diagnostics

Microfluidic chip

Microfluidic chip (Sandia National Lab)

8 April 2014. Computer scientists in the U.K. at Southampton University and circuit board manufacturer Newbury Electronics Ltd. are designing a device to detect protein indicators for diagnosing diseases at a doctor’s office or clinic rather than sending out samples to a lab for analysis. The three-year project led by Southampton’s Themis Prodromakis, is funded by a £870,000 ($US 1.45 million) grant, from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, a science funding agency in the U.K.

The new device aims to perform the diagnostic and analytical functions of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or ELISA, now used to monitor cell-signaling proteins. But the device needs to be simple and inexpensive enough to perform its analysis at the point of care, return results within at least the same day, and at a much lower cost than today’s techniques that require a remote lab for analysis.

Prodromakis and colleagues plan to develop electronic components acting as chemical sensors, combined with microfluidic chips having tiny channels that capture fluid samples for analysis. The developers anticipate adapting current techniques for producing printed circuit boards to build the device, even if the boards have customized components and microfluidic channels and chambers.

Prodromakis’s lab, part of the university’s Nano Group, is working with Newbury Electronics to better understand processes used for making printed circuit boards. The Nano Group’s research includes work on hybrid biodevices for environmental sensing as well as medical diagnostics.

The project includes clinical trials of the new device at infection and immunity facilities of Imperial College Healthcare NHS, a health system of five hospitals in London. If the work proceeds according to plan, says the university, first prototypes should be available for testing by next year.

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