Stanford’s Lab-on-a-Chip Costs 1 Cent

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have created a “lab-on-a-chip” made with an inkjet printer that only costs one cent to make. The chip will be able to diagnose debilitating, widespread diseases and illnesses like HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. More cases of early diagnoses will save countless lives. Researchers hope that improving access to this new technology can revolutionize the field of medicine.

Lab-on-a-chip. Image from Stanford Medicine
Lab-on-a-chip. Image from Stanford Medicine

The chip works as a two-part system: one part, the silicone microfluidic chamber, holds cells and an electronic strip. The other is a sheet of polyester with the inkjet-printed electronic strip. The ink used is a commercially available conductive nano-particle ink. The device can be fabricated in about 20 minutes and can be created anywhere—no clean rooms required. A process called dielectrophoresis uses the electric strip to detect the electric signals of the cells and moves them to different parts of the chamber depending on their “polarizability.” The atomic differences in different cells move them in specific directions based on responses to charges applied by electric currents. This allows processes like separating single cells, especially rare or uncommon ones, possible, and at much lower costs than when using expensive machines.

In the published paper, researchers describe the chip as a “multifunctional, inexpensive, and reusable nanoparticle-printed biochip.” At such a low cost, the chip could help thousands of people in places where accurate diagnoses are difficult. This will be especially useful in developing nations and in situations with little medical equipment. The tiny chip can handle a variety of analyses without requiring a large number of personnel to handle the process. In addition, the sample sizes needed for analysis are small and minimally invasive to the patient, limiting discomfort and equipment required. The technology will allow scientists to provide faster analysis and transform how lab equipment is used.

You can read more about this study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Source: Stanford Medicine

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