A collaborative study by researchers from Loughborough University and University of Reading (UK) has developed a novel microfluidic strip for multi-analyte testing. The device combines the simplicity of dipstick tests with the high performance benefits of microfluidic technology.
In the study, recently published in Lab on a Chip, the authors demonstrated the clinical applications by performing three types of multiplex cellular assays – anti-microbial resistance, bacterial identification and ABO blood typing
By utilizing this device, it will provide clinicians with a robust and inexpensive multiplex platform to conduct a wide variety of assays.
The device, termed “Lab on a stick”, comprises a set of test tubes approximately the size of a human hair and is capable of identifying bacteria present in urine samples, verifying antibiotic minimum inhibitory concentrations as well as perform instantaneous ABO blood typing.
The device uses the ‘dip and read’ method, utilizing a transparent microcapillary film that can be read by eye or using portable, cost-effective equipment, such as a smart phone and is up to 12 times quicker than current microbiological tests.
Nuno Reis (Loughborough University), co-author of the study, commented “This is a major step towards miniaturising complex, routine microbiological and clinical tests that cannot at the moment be performed outside of the laboratory setting.
“Our secret is simplicity. We have shown how microengineered film material made from a very transparent plastic with special optical properties, makes it easy to perform laboratory tests without lab equipment. Previously, we showed how a portable Lab-in-a-briefcase made it possible to record blood test results with the assistance of a simple smartphone.”
Al Edwards (University of Reading), co-author of the study, commented “This is the latest demonstration of our exciting new technology called microcapillary film. Many researchers across the world have shown how miniaturising lab tests can speed them up using microfluidic Lab-on-a-Chip devices.”
“But these are too expensive to be useful outside the laboratory. What we have done is to develop a low cost way of making thousands of miniature test tubes, so that we can use them for many important applications. Lab-on-a-Stick shows yet again how versatile these microscopic test tubes are.” He added.
Lab-on-a-stick has the potential to provide an inexpensive, easy and portable multiplex platform for a variety of assays and looks to lead the development of novel advanced but affordable test for global applications.
Sources: Reis NM, Pivetal J, Loo-Zazueta AL, Barros JMS, Edwards AD. Lab on a stick: multi-analyte cellular assays in a microfluidic dipstick. Lab Chip16(15), 2891(2016). Loughborough University press release; University of Reading press release