A new lab-on-a-chip infection test developed at Imperial College London could pave the way for cheaper, faster portable diagnostics.
TriSilix is a micro laboratory which performs a miniature version of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on the spot. Although PCR is usually performed in a laboratory, which means test results are not immediately available, this new lab-on-a-chip can process and present results in minutes.
Lead researcher Dr Firat Guder of Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering said: “Rather than sending swabs to the lab or going to a clinic, the lab could come to you on a fingernail-sized chip.
“You would use the test much like how people with diabetes use blood sugar tests, by providing a sample and waiting for results – except this time it’s for infectious diseases.”
Each lab-on-a-chip contains a DNA sensor, temperature detector and heater to automate the testing process. A typical smartphone battery could power up to 35 tests on a single charge.
The researchers have so far used TriSilix to diagnose a bacterial infection mainly present in animals, as well as a synthetic version of the genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19.
The researchers have also said that they plan to validate their chip with clinical samples, automate the preparation of samples and advance their handheld electronics. They are looking for partners and funders to help accelerate the translation of the technology to deliver testing at resource limited settings at homes, farms or remote locations in the developing world.
First author Dr Estefania Nunez-Bajo, also of the Department of Bioengineering, said: “Monitoring infections at home could even help patients, with the help of their doctor, to personalise and tailor their antibiotic use to help reduce the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.”