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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

Lab-on-a-Chip, Round 2

Published May 2, 2013 12:12 PM by Michael Jones

Imagine a healthcare facility where a small sample of blood is taken as you walk in the door, just .25 attomoles -- you’d barely notice. They drop your sample into a small, handheld device and, by the time your physician has come to see you, they are ready to tell you if they would like further testing for diseases like Alzheimer’s or cancer based on the early-detection results from their handheld test. A Dark Daily news briefing recently announced that scientists in Japan have developed a device that could turn that hypothetical situation into reality.

“Rapidness, simple operation, small required sample volume and portability of the device are ideal advantages for point-of-care cancer diagnosis,” wrote researchers Hideyuki Arata, PhD, Hiroshi Komatsun and Kazuo Hosokawa, PhD, in a study published in PLOS ONE.

Researchers at the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Japan developed the lab-on-a-chip technology, making the new device possible. While initial efforts in development required too large a sample size for a practical application, the project’s second generation success allows for an enhanced examination of smaller samples while providing a quick 20 minute turnaround time for results. This technology marks a step in the right direction for progress in point-of-care testing (POCT).

“The development of an inexpensive and rapid point-of-care test capable of spotting early biomarkers of disease could therefore save many lives,” RIKEN pointed out in a story on their website.

Although the RNA-reading-microchip technology is regarded as a scientific breakthrough, the device will still have to undergo several more rounds of revision and modification before it is ready for clinical trials. The Dark Daily briefing cited the device as “signal[ing] a new paradigm for clinical laboratory testing.” In the meantime, the implication of handheld POCT equipment opens new doors to testing in “research-poor” areas both foreign and domestic -- allowing healthcare facilities to expand their communities, while providing fast, on-the-go diagnosis and treatment around the world. 

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