Lab in a needle could make real-time, mobile testing a reality

The device would allow doctors and patients to immediately discuss treatment options instead of waiting days for results.

Researchers at Houston Methodist, along with collaborators at two major Singapore institutions, have developed a lab in a needle device that could provide instant results to routine lab tests, accelerating treatment and diagnosis by days.

For example, the single, self-contained medical device will be effective in quickly detecting liver toxicity which is a common side effect of chemotherapy. The device will test toxicity in 30 minutes while current liver toxicity tests take several days due to multiple steps required before a physician interprets the test results and communicates them to the patient.

The joint research group sought to develop a new class of device to collect patient samples, prepare them for testing, evaluate toxicity, and display results in one easy-to-use process, allowing doctors and patients to immediately discuss treatment options. A compact device would also make possible diagnostic testing outside of a clinical setting, such as at home or in the field.

“What we have proven is when the doctor takes a blood or liver sample, the sample can be prepared and analyzed using lab on a chip methods which eliminates the need for wet laboratory work and experts,” said Joseph Chang, Ph.D., a professor of circuits and systems and biomedical engineering expert who is the Director of Virtus, the Centre of Excellence in IC Design, at NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. “Our method significantly reduces time, manpower and costs and yet has the same accurate results.”

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