January 30, 2008 - University of Alberta researchers in Edmonton, Canada, have developed a portable unit for genetic testing about the size of a shoebox, which has the same capability as a lab full of expensive equipment.
The device - along with other, even smaller units the team is now in the process of developing - paves the way for enormous savings to health-care systems and will improve care for patients. A wide variety of genetic tests that are available but not often used because their cost is prohibitive will become cheap, fast and easily accessible.
Prof. Christopher Backhouse, of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, together with Dr. Linda Pilarski, an oncology professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, and their research team, have received international recognition for the device. An article describing their "shoebox-sized" portable unit appears in the Jan. 18, 2008, issue of The Analyst, a scientific journal published by the Royal Society of Chemistry based in the United Kingdom. The article lead author is University of Alberta Ph.D. student Govind V. Kaigala.
The heart of the unit, the 'chip,' looks like a standard microscope slide etched with fine silver and gold lines. That microfabricated chip applies nano-biotechnologies within tiny volumes, sometimes working with only a few molecules of sample. Because of this highly integrated chip (containing microfluidics and microscale devices), the remainder of the system is inexpensive ($1,000) and fast.
For more information: www.ece.ualberta.ca/~chrisb