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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

The Quick Chip

Published June 19, 2013 10:58 AM by Michael Jones

Treatment for a bacterial infection can all come down to a question of time. According to a recent story from Medical News Today, researchers from the University of Toronto (UT) in Canada have developed a chip to identify the problem and the best course of action in treatment for a specific patient. Unless like current standards in testing, the new chip takes minutes to assess a sample rather than days, time that’s important to patients facing serious infections.

“The chip reported accurately on the type of bacteria in a sample, along with whether the pathogen possessed drug resistance,” said Brian Lam, a PhD student in Chemistry at UT. Lam was the first author of the study, along with fellow UT Co-senior authors, Shana Kelley, department of pharmacy and biochemistry, and Ted Sargent, department of electrical and computer engineering. The variety of backgrounds that went into development of the new diagnostic chip was cited in the Medical News Today article as “a good example of the kind of innovations that can occur when experts from different fields work together.” According to the story, the research team at UT went about designing an electronic chip that could run many tests simultaneously. Using “solution-based circuits on formed on a chip,” allowed the team to test for each biomarker individually.

“It also allows for simple and cost effective manufacturing of highly multiplexed electrochemical detectors, which will certainly have a significant impact on the availability of diagnostic tools,” commented Ihor Bozko, who, according to the article, is the director of a Toronto-based company that deals with in vitro diagnostics and had, earlier in the piece, remarked that the “new concept could have significant practical applications.”

It was noted in the Medical News Today piece, Kelley described antibiotics as “either over-used or not used appropriately,” which is one of the factors leading to new, drug-resistant forms of bacteria. Although “electronic devices that give a simple readout, based on highly sensitive and specific diagnostic tests that use small panels of biomarkers, already exist,” the implications of a multiple-use test working in minutes allows for a quicker start to patient treatment plans. For more dangerous bacterial infections, the extra time could be just what was needed. 

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