Researchers from Boston University and Harvard Medical School have been testing a new microfluidic chip that performs nucleic acid extraction and reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) in one device and features easily adjustable thermal and fluidic control.
The team hopes that the new technology will speed up and make more available rapid testing and identification of influenza infections.
More about the chip from Boston University’s announcement:
To produce a faster, cheaper, highly accurate flu diagnostic test that could be run at the point of care, the researchers miniaturized an expensive, three-hour, lab-scale diagnostic test—known as RT-PCR and now considered the gold standard in flu detection—into a single-use microfluidic chip. About the size of a standard microscope slide, the integrated chip consists of a column at the top that extracts RNA from signature proteins in the sample associated with the influenza A virus; a middle chamber that converts the RNA into DNA; and a climate-controlled lower channel used to replicate the DNA in sufficient quantities so it can be detected by an external reader.
Working with two types of nasal specimens, the researchers used the chip to produce results that matched the high accuracy and relatively fast turn-around time of the lab-scale method.
The microfluidic chip also proved far more effective than other commonly used flu diagnostic tests including viral culture, a lab procedure requiring up to a week to produce results; rapid immunoassays, which work like pregnancy tests but were only 40 percent reliable in detecting the presence of a flu virus in this study; and direct fluorescent antigen testing (DFA), a more accurate but labor-intensive process in which medical personnel prepare and interpret samples stained with fluorescent antibodies.