Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Washington at Tacoma have partnered to develop a compact, portable, and easy to use system for simultaneously detecting a variety of bacteria and viruses that cause disease. The system provides results in about a half an hour, which are nearly as accurate as laboratory equipment, and the technology can be used in the field and at the point-of-care.
The technology revolves around a microfluidic chip that contains loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) reagents. Each of the chip’s parallel channels is loaded with reagents designed to react with different nucleic acid sequences. The reagents fluoresce when combined with the right nucleic acid targets and illuminated by a specific frequency of light.
The fluorescence is hard to detect using the naked eye, so the chip and a smartphone are placed inside a 3D printed box, aligning the phone’s camera and LED with the chip’s microfluidic channels. The LED is used to excite the fluorescent compounds while the camera captures the visual signal. A simple app is then used to recognize which channels fluoresced and which did not, indicating which pathogens were present in the sample.
The system uses only a drop of pathogen-containing bodily fluids, including whole blood, and, depending on reagents used, provides results within about thirty minutes. The data from the smartphone app, along with information about the person being tested, can then be uploaded to an online database. By collecting readings from many individuals, the scope and spread of a disease can be quickly established.
Related studies: Journal Analytical Chemistry: Mobile Platform for Multiplexed Detection and Differentiation of Disease-Specific Nucleic Acid Sequences, Using Microfluidic Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification and Smartphone Detection…; Journal Biomedical Microdevices: Hands-free smartphone-based diagnostics for simultaneous detection of Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue at point-of-care…