Vanderbilt University’s Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education (VIIBRE) and Pria Diagnostics LLC, a privately held California company, are in a process of development of a portable infectious disease monitor, based on micro-optical fluorescence spectroscopy:
VIIBRE has spent the last three years developing the ability to measure the metabolism of small groups of cells and studying how they respond to drugs, toxins and pollutants. To do so, the interdisciplinary team has developed two basic technologies: special electrodes that can measure the concentrations of the chemicals that cells consume and excrete in extremely small volumes and the use of fluids flowing through microscopic channels to move and manipulate small numbers of cells reliably.
Meanwhile, Pria has developed a micro-optical fluorescence spectroscopy system and used it as the basis for an inexpensive male fertility detector that can be used in the home to measure sperm motility with an accuracy comparable to laboratory analyses.
One of the key VIIBRE capabilities is the development of a sensor suite capable of simultaneously measuring the concentrations of the key chemicals that cells consume and excrete – oxygen, glucose and lactic acid – with enough sensitivity to monitor the health of a few thousand cells confined in a small volume.
… Vanderbilt researchers have further miniaturized this sensor technology to record rapid changes in the metabolism and signaling of individual cells. To handle such small numbers of cells, they have adapted a method for molding micro-channels and valves into a material similar to that used in soft contact lenses. This has given them the capability to capture, manipulate, grow and study single living cells in extraordinarily small containers – volumes that are barely larger than the cells themselves.
The ability to monitor the health of small groups of cells, however, makes it possible to detect the presence of unknown poisons as long as they affect cell metabolism.