A major milestone in microfluidics could soon lead to stand-alone, self-powered chips that can diagnose diseases within minutes. A new device, developed by an international team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, Dublin City University in Ireland, and Universidad de Valparaíso Chile, is able to process whole blood samples without the use of external tubing and extra components. The researchers have dubbed the device SIMBAS, which stands for Self-powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System. The report on SIMBAS was featured as the cover story of the March 7, 2011 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Lab on a Chip. “The dream of a true lab-on-a-chip has been around for a while, but most systems developed thus far have not been truly autonomous,” said Dr. Ivan Dimov, UC Berkeley post-doctoral researcher in bioengineering and co-lead author of the study. “By the time you add tubing and sample prep setup components required to make previous chips function, they lose their characteristic of being small, portable and cheap. In our device, there are no external connections or tubing required, so this can truly become a point-of-care system.” Dr. Dimov works in the lab of the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Luke Lee, UC Berkeley professor of bioengineering and co-director of the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center. “This is a very important development for global healthcare diagnostics,” said Dr. Lee. “Field workers would be able to use this device to detect diseases such as HIV or tuberculosis in a matter of minutes. The fact that we reduced the complexity of the biochip and used plastic components makes it much easier to manufacture in high volume at low cost.
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