Biomedical engineers from Florida Atlantic University have integrated cellulose paper and flexible polyester films, which can be used as diagnostic tools that can detect bio-agents in blood. All that is required from a patient to perform a diagnosis using the platform is a drop of blood from the fingertip.
Previous attempts to create paper diagnostic materials have been limited by the fact that they require complex labelling to amplify the signal and are difficult to create and deploy.
In a new study detailing the development of a bio-sensing platform researchers explain how they have overcome these challenges.Three separate materials have been developed for sensing bio-agents and the use of lensless shadow imaging technology means no signal amplification is necessary. The research is published in Nature Scientific Reports.
The platform could provide a solution for remote healthcare providers in both the developed and developing worlds as the thin, lightweight and flexible material can be both fabricated and operated without expensive infrastructure or skilled personnel. Similarly the microchips can be easily and safely disposed of by burning.
An accompanying smartphone app allows diseases to be diagnosed using images of the microchips from anywhere in the world.
“There is a dire need for robust, portable, disposable and inexpensive bio-sensing platforms for clinical care, especially in developing countries with limited resources,” said Waseem Asghar, co-author of the study.
“Our paper microchip technologies can potentially have a significant impact on infectious diseases management in low- and middle-income countries where there is limited laboratory infrastructure,” added Hadi Shafiee, also a co-first author.
While the researchers have limited initial trials of the platform to testing for HIV, E. Coli and Staphylococcus aureus (which can cause food poisoning), they are confident that it could be adapted and tailored in order to detect other pathogens and bio-targets. The platform also has the potential to be used as more than just a diagnosis tool; alternative applications include drug development, food safety, environmental monitoring and veterinary medicine.