Using new “lab on a chip” technology, a University of Virginia researcher hopes to create a hand-held device that may eventually allow physicians, pharmacists, even the general public, to quickly and inexpensively conduct DNA tests from almost anywhere, without need for a complex and expensive central laboratory.
“We are simplifying and miniaturizing the analytical processes so we can do this work in the field, away from traditional laboratories, with very fast analysis times, and at a greatly reduced cost,” said James Landers, a University of Virginia professor of chemistry and mechanical engineering and associate professor of pathology.
“This area of research has matured enough during the last five years to allow us to seriously consider future possibilities for devices that would allow sample-in, answer-out capabilities from almost anywhere,” he said.
Researchers, including mechanical and electrical engineers, with input from pathologists and physicians, are designing a hand-held device— about the size of a microscope slide—that houses many of the analytical tools of an entire laboratory. The unit can test, for example, a pin-prick-size droplet of blood, and within an hour provide a DNA analysis.
Such a device could be used in a doctor’s office, for example, to quickly test for an array of infectious diseases, such as anthrax, avian flu or HIV, as well as for cancer or genetic defects. Because of the quick turnaround time, a patient would be able to wait only a short time onsite for a diagnosis. Appropriate treatment, if needed, could begin immediately.
Landers said the research also dovetails with the trend toward “personalized medicine,” in which medical care increasingly is tailored to the specific genetic profile of a patient. Such highly specialized personalized care can allow physicians to develop specific therapies for patients who might be susceptible to, for example, particular types of cancers.
Release date: September 18, 2008
Source: University of Virginia
Filed Under: Genomics/Proteomics