Device shrinks cost and size of lab tests

A device that's 3 inches long and an inch wide could dramatically reduce the costs of performing lab tests on blood and fluids. "The results are as sensitive and accurate as the standard benchtop assay," says Martin Yarmush. (Credit: Sepehr Ehsani/Flickr)

A new device could make it much cheaper and easier to perform lab tests on blood and fluid for disorders like HIV and Lyme disease.

The tiny lab-on-a-chip device requires 90 percent less sample fluid than conventional tests.

“A great deal of research has been hindered because in many cases one is not able to extract enough fluid,” says Mehdi Ghodbane, a former PhD student at Rutgers who now works at GlaxoSmithKline.

The device also requires one-tenth of the chemicals used in a conventional multiplex immunoassay, which can cost as much as $1,500. Additionally, the device automates much of the skilled labor involved in performing tests.

Ghodbane and six Rutgers researchers recently described the new technology in a paper published in Lab on a Chip.

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“The results are as sensitive and accurate as the standard benchtop assay,” says Martin Yarmush, professor of biomedical engineering at Rutgers and Ghodbane’s adviser.

Until now, animal research on central nervous system disorders, such as spinal cord injury and Parkinson’s disease, has been limited because researchers could not extract sufficient cerebrospinal fluid to perform conventional assays.

“With our technology, researchers will be able to perform large-scale controlled studies with comparable accuracy to conventional assays,” Yarmush says.

The discovery could also lead to more comprehensive research on autoimmune joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis through animal studies. As with spinal fluid, the amount of joint fluid, or synovial fluid, researchers are able to collect from lab animals is minuscule.

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The team has combined several capabilities for the first time in the device they’ve dubbed “ELISA-on-a-chip” (for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). A single device analyzes 32 samples at once and can measure widely varying concentrations of as many as six proteins in a sample.

The researchers are exploring the commercial potential of their technology.

The National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the New Jersey Commission on Brain Injury Research, and Corning, Inc. provided funding for the research.

Source: Rutgers