Portable, inexpensive ‘lab-on-a-chip’ a hit

It’s common knowledge that to carry out genetic tests, one would need expensive, state-of-the-art laboratory. But that might soon change thanks to a group of Canadian scientists who’ve developed a “lab-on-a-chip” device to conduct these tests. What is interesting about the device is that it’s supposed to be portable, inexpensive, and efficient. Hailing from the University of Alberta; Professor Christopher Backhouse and Professor Linda Pilarski (Department of Oncology), along with research student, Govind Kaigala, have developed a US$1,000 device the size of a shoebox that can conduct genetic tests and deliver results in less than half an hour. Elaborating on the innovation, the researchers said that miniaturization is the key factor that has drastically brought down the cost of this gadget. The Canadian Press quoted Professor Backhouse as saying that like computers, which in their early days, were inaccessible; somewhat like million-dollar beasts who formed a roomful, yet one needed a Ph.D. to to be able to operate one of them. Similarly, the Professor said Life Science technologies do exist but aren’t being utilized optimally because they’re very expensive. Hence, the key to this mini-laboratory was to integrate, shrink, and automate. The ability of the device to implement a very wide range of tests on a standard platform quickly and inexpensively would make it indispensable for the future. The research team believes that their miniature lab-on-a-chip will provide Cancer patients with quick genetic tests, in turn speeding up treatment processes. The team also believes the device may be useful in finding genetic signatures for particular viruses or bacteria or for testing the quality of water, and so on.


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