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Breakthrough in Diagnostic Technology Could Make On-The-Spot Testing Widely Accessible

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 01 Dec 2023
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Image: Made-to-order diagnostic tests may soon be on the horizon (Photo courtesy of McGill University)
Image: Made-to-order diagnostic tests may soon be on the horizon (Photo courtesy of McGill University)

Home testing gained significant importance during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the availability of rapid tests is limited, and most of them can only drive one liquid across the strip, leading to continued reliance on centralized laboratory diagnostics. Now, a significant advancement has been achieved in diagnostic technology with the development of a 'lab on a chip' that can be created through 3D printing in just half an hour. This innovation holds the potential to make rapid, on-site testing widely accessible.

As part of a recent study, researchers at McGill University (Montreal, QC, Canada) have pioneered the development of capillaric chips, which essentially serve as miniaturized laboratories. In contrast to other computer microprocessors, these chips are designed for single use and do not need an external power source; they operate efficiently using just a paper strip. Their functionality is based on capillary action, the natural process that enables liquid to spontaneously move into an absorbent material, like a paper towel absorbing a spill on a table. Remarkably, these chips can be tailored through 3D printing for a variety of tests, including the quantification of COVID-19 antibodies.

This advancement brings the concept of 3D-printed home diagnostics closer to practical application, though challenges like obtaining regulatory approvals and securing the necessary testing materials still exist. The research team is committed to enhancing the accessibility of this technology, focusing on adapting it for use with more affordable 3D printers. innovation aims to accelerate diagnostic processes, improve patient care, and usher in a new era of convenient and accessible testing options.

“Traditional diagnostics require peripherals, while ours can circumvent them. Our diagnostics are a bit what the cell phone was to traditional desktop computers that required a separate monitor, keyboard and power supply to operate,” explained Prof. David Juncker, Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at McGill and senior author on the study. “This advancement has the capacity to empower individuals, researchers, and industries to explore new possibilities and applications in a more cost-effective and user-friendly manner. This innovation also holds the potential to eventually empower health professionals with the ability to rapidly create tailored solutions for specific needs right at the point-of-care.”

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