Syndicate content

Archive - Mar 19, 2011

New Blood Analysis Chip Could Yield Diagnoses in Minutes

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.

Llama Antibodies Provide Clues to Novel Treatment of Virulent Hospital Infection

Clostridium difficile is a health problem that affects hundreds of thousands of patients and costs $10 billion to $20 billion every year in North America. Researchers from the University of Calgary and the National Research Council of Canada and colleagues say they are gaining a deeper understanding of this disease and are closer to developing a novel treatment using antibodies from llamas. "We have found that relatively simple antibodies can interfere with the disease-causing toxins from C. difficile," said paper co-author Dr. Kenneth Ng, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Calgary and principal investigator of the Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Carbohydrate Science. "This discovery moves us a step closer to understanding how to neutralize the toxins and to create novel treatments for the disease." His research is part of a paper published in the March 18, 2011 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Approximately two percent of all patients admitted to hospital may be infected by C. difficile, which thrives when healthy bacteria in the gut are weakened by antibiotics, thus allowing spores from Clostridium to germinate and colonize the large intestine. "This research is significant because C. difficile is an increasing heath care problem and many people may experience multiple infections," said Dr. Glen Armstrong, head of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infectious Diseases in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary. "The current treatments are becoming less effective and C. difficile is developing resistance to conventional antibiotics. This research promises to provide a much-needed alternate treatment option that will overcome the failings of conventional antibiotics." C.