Cheap, disposable device for diagnosing diseases

Washington :Scientists are developing a disposable device that will make diagnosis of diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis cheaper and more convenient in regions where medical facilities are sparse.

The microfluidic device works by sorting and manipulating cells and other micro/nano metre scale objects.

Based on gentle acoustic vibrations, the device called acoustic tweezers is being developed by researchers at Pennsylvania State University in US.

“We believe our acoustic tweezers have tremendous potential, especially in diagnostics, with some applications also in therapeutics,” said Tony Huang, professor at PSU.

“Our current device works well, but to be used in diagnostics, the whole device has to be disposed of after one use,” Huang said.

“We have now found a way to separate the fluid-containing part of the device from the much more expensive ultrasound-producing piezoelectric substrate. This makes disposable acoustic tweezers possible,” he said.

In the prior device, the microfluidic channel was permanently bound to the substrate and the ultrasound would be radiated directly into the fluid.

In the new device, there is an intervening layer, but the ultrasound force is strong enough to manipulate the cells and to pattern them.

This patterning of cells is especially important in studying cell-to-cell communication in biology labs or for drug screening.

“In drug screening, you want to examine how cells respond to drugs,” said Feng Guo of PSU.

“With our acoustic tweezers, we can create a high throughput of single cells and see how they respond to drugs,” Guo said.

“Or, we create all types of cell assemblies and see how they respond to drugs, much more like how it would work inside the body,” Guo said.

In addition to its use in diagnosing diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis, both of which are endemic in resource-poor regions of the world, the device should find widespread use in hospitals, clinics, biology labs and the home due to its low cost and ease of use.

The findings were published in the journal Lab on a Chip.