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David Plaut: Off the Cuff

Lab on a Chip

Published March 25, 2014 11:54 AM by David Plaut

This is such a fascinating and significant area of our work that I am going to devote both this and the next blog to some recent articles that discuss Lab on a Chip. [There is a journal (Lab Chip) devoted to this. In the last 6 months at PubMed, there were over 400 articles abstracted by PubMed from the key words Lab on a Chip!] Because of intensive developments in recent years, the microfluidic system has become a powerful tool for biological analysis. Entire analytic protocols including sample pretreatment, sample/reagent manipulation, separation, reaction and detection can be integrated into a single chip platform. A lot of demonstrations on the diagnostic applications related to genes, proteins and cells have been reported because of their advantages associated with miniaturization, automation, sensitivity and specificity

Here are 4 short synopses from some of the articles I found most intriguing to us.

1.            New in-the-field-deployable diagnostic modalities are urgently needed in first-responder and point-of-care applications. Researchers have utilized innovative approaches using the unique properties of nano (1*10 -9) materials in order to achieve detection of infectious agents, even in complex media like blood. With gold nanoparticles and iron oxide nanoparticles and changes in magnetic properties, detection of pathogens, toxins, antigens and nucleic acids has been achieved with impressive nano-detection thresholds. Additionally, as bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, nanotechnology has achieved the rapid determination of bacterial drug susceptibility and resistance using these novel methods.

2.            Accurate detection and profiling of circulating tumor cells (CTCs). The rarity of CTCs, approximated at 1 CTC for every billion peripheral blood cells poses significant challenges to sensitive and reliable detection. The authors recently developed a new micro-nuclear magnetic resonance (μNMR) platform for biosensing. This μNMR platform offers high detection sensitivity and point-of-care operation, overcoming technical barriers in CTC research.

3.            By making use of the microarray format, the lab-on-chip system also addresses new trends in biomedicine. Research topics such as personalized medicine or companion diagnostics show that multiparameter analyses are an added value for diagnostics and therapy, as well as therapy control. Since reagents, microfluidic actuators and various sensors are integrated within the cartridge, these goals are addressed with a low-cost and self-contained cartridge. In combination with a fully automated instrumentation (read-out and processing unit), a diagnostic assay can be performed in about 15 min. So far, example assays for nucleic acids (detection of different pathogens) and protein markers (such as CRP and PSA) have been established. Recent developments are the integration of sample preparation and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on-chip between diagnostic needs and available technologies can be closed.

4.            Active monitoring of the immune system in both HIV patients and individuals who are regarded as "at-risk" is critical in the decision making process for when to start a patient on ART. A reliable and common method for such monitoring is to observe any decline in the number of CD4 expressing T-helper cells in the blood of a patient. However, the technology, expertise, infrastructure and costs to carry out such a diagnostic cannot be handled by medical services in resource-poor regions where HIV is endemic. A number of new devices will soon be on the market. Many of the current and imminent devices are enabled by microfluidic solutions.


1.            Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2010 Mar 18;62(4-5):408-23. Emerging nanotechnology-based strategies for the identification of microbial pathogenesis.Kaittanis C1, Santra S, Perez JM.

2.            Lab Chip. 2014 Jan 7;14(1):14-23. 8.Miniaturized nuclear magnetic resonance platform for detection and profiling of circulating tumor cells. Castro CM1, Ghazani AA, Chung J, et al.

3.            Lab Chip. 2013 Jul 21;13(14):2731-48. Highly-integrated lab-on-chip system for point-of-care multiparameter analysis. Schumacher S1, Nestler J, Otto T, et al.

4.            Lab Chip. 2012 Feb 7;12(3):464-73. CD4 counting technologies for HIV therapy monitoring in resource-poor settings--state-of-the-art and emerging microtechnologies. Glynn MT1, Kinahan DJ, Ducrée J.

rging microtechnologies. Glynn MT1, Kinahan DJ, Ducrée J.



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