by Anneli Rufus
Now here's something sick people can be happy about.
Or, if not happy, then at least somewhat relieved, because at least they'll learn their diagnoses sooner —thanks to a revolutionary new device developed by UC Berkeley scientists that can analyze blood at unprecedented speeds.
The Self-powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System, or SIMBAS, is a one-by-two-inch chip about as thick as a DVD, outfitted with tiny channels no wider than a hair's breadth. The chip can analyze intact blood samples all by itself — without the use of tubes, motors, or any other external apparatus.
An international team of microfluidics researchers from UC Berkeley, Ireland's Dublin City University, and Chile's Universidad de Valparaíso worked together to develop SIMBAS, which could make testing for HIV or TB as quick and easy as testing for pregnancy, and which was introduced last week.
“The dream of a true lab-on-a-chip has been around for a while, but most systems developed thus far have not been truly autonomous,” said UC Berkeley bioengineering postdoctoral researcher Ivan Dimov, a co-lead author of the study, as quoted in a UC Berkeley News Center report. “By the time you add tubing and sample prep setup components required to make previous chips function, they lose their characteristic of being small, portable, and cheap. In our device, there are no external connections or tubing required, so this can truly become a point-of-care system.”
Dimov works with the study’s principal investigator, UC Berkeley bioengineering professor Luke Lee, who codirects the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center.
“This is a very important development for global healthcare diagnostics,” said Lee, who earned both his BA and Ph.D from UC Berkeley and has more than ten years of industrial experience in integrated optoelectronics, Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs), and biomagnetic assays, and now works in the fields of bionanoscience, nanomedicine for global healthcare and personalized medicine, and Bioinspired Photonics-Optofluidics-Electronics Technology and Science (BioPOETS) for green building with living skin.
“Field workers would be able to use this device to detect diseases such as HIV or tuberculosis in a matter of minutes," Lee said. "The fact that we reduced the complexity of the biochip and used plastic components makes it much easier to manufacture in high volume at low cost. Our goal is to address global health care needs with diagnostic devices that are functional, cheap, and truly portable."