Having a pocket-sized device that can conduct laboratory-scale testing in an instant is one thing.
But, applying that device to the medical industry, affording a revolution in diagnosis and health monitoring worldwide is an entirely different level.
A ‘lab on a chip’ is being developed by an Associate Professor from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) School of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and a Professor from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM).
As reported, the two are collaborating in creating a one-stop-shop device for testing blood. The ‘lab on a chip’ is not a single test device. Rather, it is a whole laboratory.
It can be used to quickly input the sample and then get the results right then and there. They will then be able to assess the patient’s condition immediately.
The device, created as a prototype in the University’s Protospace 3D printing facilities, allows for researchers to conduct multiple blood tests using only a few drops of blood.
It promises less of a burden to patients requiring blood testing.
It works by filtering blood droplets into several chambers, in which each separate test is conducted simultaneously.
It is very handy as it is just the size of an ID card. It is designed to be disposable too. Therefore, it is an affordable and accessible option for many.
More importantly, it could prove to be particularly useful in the case of epidemic diseases.
If some sort of plague occurs, for instance, the patient will be able to quickly check what the disease is without the risk of it spreading.
The chip will be able to save them the trouble of having to bring the blood samples to a city to have it tested and checked for results.
However, current limitations in technology have made building such a device challenging to implement practically.
The demanding micro-additive manufacturing process is something most 3D printers are yet to achieve. Yet both researchers are in the process of working around that.
Most of the 3D printers now cannot deal with very fine details in the fabrication process. That is why this collaborative research project was proposed, to be able to look into micro-additive manufacturing.
If the research is successful, it can be used to make these concepts accessible, to bring them to life.
At present the micro-electrical-mechanical technology is being used for making the moulds for biomedical devices.
It involves many steps of production and the component parts need to be made separately and bonded.
But done with 3D printing, the device can be printed in one step. It would be fast and the cost would be much cheaper.
Initiating collaborative research project of such scale was as simple as reaching out through the UTS Key Technology Partnerships network.
Under the Key Technology Partnership (KTP) Visiting Fellow program, both researchers understand the value of working face-to-face with their research colleague.
The sharing of knowledge, students and facilities, is the primary benefit they get.
Looking from a different perspective, from the manufacturing and then materials side, for instance, allows them to solve problems and issues they would not have overcome alone.
Working together at the University has allowed the two academics to complete their work within a shorter timeframe.
Even though Skype or other similar applications can be used nowadays to communicate, everyone is too busy.
It always turns out that no one has the luxury of time to talk. Having both individuals present in the University makes it very convenient.