Diagnosing disease is a long process. An accurate diagnosis isn’t achieved after a short meeting with your doctor, nor does it always take just one visit. These tests don’t come cheap either--which is a huge problem for other hospitals in countries stricken with disease while lacking in budget at the same time. Scientists have been looking for a much cheaper and more viable option.
The Stanford Solution
A group of Stanford researchers have created an inject-printed microchip that can be created in less than thirty minutes. Even better, this microchip only costs a penny. That’s right, a single penny.
Though he was not involved in the study, Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego, told Gizmodo, “Assembling a lab on a chip in 20 minutes for less than a penny is really a breakthrough.”
The world is more familiar with seeing bulky machines processing samples for hours, taking them from one centrifuge to the next and going through a number of steps before finding a viable conclusion. The idea of this ‘lab on a chip’ is basically taking all that and attempting to simplify the entire process.
What Is It Made Of?
A microchip that costs a penny and can save lives. (c) Zahra Koochak
The microchip is a multilayer stack. A layer of conductive particles is printed onto a flexible plastic surface. A silicone section is then molded in and provides a space for whatever sample is needed for the tests.
How does it sort out samples? By using electric current, of course. They tested it by isolating yeast and breast cancer cells without killing them, along with isolating the tiny plastic particles.
“Notably, it is straightforward to adapt our platform for a variety of bioparticles and cells with differing sizes and properties, simply by varying the configuration of the electronic apertures and re-optimize it for the cells of interest,” the researchers wrote on their paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Though it has piqued interest, there is no clear date when the chip will be available for widespread use. But as Topol said, the incredible number of ways this tiny chip can be used--coupled with its incredibly cheap production value--this ‘lab on a chip’ can’t be beat.