Saturday, June 6, 2009

New blood-analyzing chip could spot cancer in 10 minutes from only one drop

Integrated-Diagnostics-microfluidic-chip.jpgWhen you're sick, getting blood work done can be a long, expensive process. The current method involves a doctor or nurse drawing 10 to 15 milliliters of blood into several vials, multiple technicians analyzing that blood for many hours, and an end cost of about $500 per test. With that in mind, how does this sound? A new chip can do the same work in 10 minutes with one drop of blood, and it only costs "a nickel a protein," according to one of its developers.

The microfluidic chip is being developed by James Heath, a chemistry professor at Caltech, and Institute for Systems Biology founder Leroy Hood. The chip performs the entire test, separating cells and proteins, and tagging the proteins so that they'll light up under a microscope if anything is found.

The technology, they say, will make it possible for doctors to give a bedside diagnosis based on blood analysis, rather than having to wait a week. Even better, it analyzes blood when it's fresh, rather than letting the quality of the sample degrade, making it far more accurate.

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