A major milestone in microfluidics could soon lead to stand-alone, self-powered chips that can diagnose diseases within minutes. The device, developed by an international team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, Dublin City University in Ireland and Universidad de Valparaíso Chile, is able to process whole blood samples without the use of external tubing and extra components.
The researchers have dubbed the device SIMBAS, which stands for Self-powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System. SIMBAS appeared as the cover story March 7 in the peer-reviewed journal Lab on a Chip.
“The dream of a true lab-on-a-chip has been around for a while, but most systems developed thus far have not been truly autonomous,” said Ivan Dimov, UC Berkeley post-doctoral researcher in bioengineering and co-lead author of the study. “By the time you add tubing and sample prep setup components required to make previous chips function, they lose their characteristic of being small, portable and cheap. In our device, there are no external connections or tubing required, so this can truly become a point-of-care system.”
Dimov works in the lab of the study’s principal investigator, Luke Lee, UC Berkeley professor of bioengineering and co-director of the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center.
“This is a very important development for global healthcare diagnostics,” said Lee. “Field workers would be able to use this device to detect diseases such as HIV or tuberculosis in a matter of minutes. The fact that we reduced the complexity of the biochip and used plastic components makes it much easier to manufacture in high volume at low cost. Our goal is to address global health care needs with diagnostic devices that are functional, cheap and truly portable.”
A University of California, Berkeley, team has been awarded a $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for research on biologically-inspired technologies for grey water reuse and thermal energy management that may propel sustainable building into a new era.
Micro-optic lenses, which would be installed in exterior walls.
The grant comes from the NSF’s Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation’s 2010 Science in Energy and Environmental Design (EFRI-SEED) program for engineering sustainable buildings.
Leading UC Berkeley’s award-winning, interdisciplinary research team as principal investigator is Maria-Paz Gutierrez, assistant professor of architecture in UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, and the only architect serving as principal investigator for any of the NSF’s eight EFRI-SEED 2010 grants. Her work focuses on advancing sustainable building technologies, particularly for developing regions.
For the first time in the NSF’s history, the inclusion of an architect was required in each request-for-proposal for this grant.
Also on the UC Berkeley team is Luke Lee, Lloyd Distinguished Professor in Bioengineering, director of the Biomolecular Nanotechnology Center and co-director of the Sensor & Actuator Center, at UC Berkeley. Lee is a distinguished scientist in the field of photonics and micro fluidics. The other team member is civil environmental engineer Slawomir Hermanowicz, a UC Berkeley professor of civil engineering renowned for his research involving biological water and wastewater treatment processes.
A small number of research teams around the world have been developing target-specific nanoprobes for the past 10 years in an effort to reduce — and perhaps eliminate — the toxic toll chemotherapy takes on the healthy cells that reside near their diseased counterparts.
What had been missing, however, is a mechanism by which the nanoprobes could not only find the cancer cell, but also relay information once they latched onto the target. The UC Berkeley team created such multi-functioning probes, which they have dubbed nanocorals.
The development of the new nanocorals is the cover story for the Feb. 22 print issue of the peer-reviewed journal Small.
“If you’re sending a satellite into space, you need it to do more than one thing. It must reach its target, detect its surroundings, and communicate back to ground control,” said Luke Lee, Lloyd Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley and head of the UC Berkeley team that developed the nanocoral. “The same is true in the molecular galaxy. We need probes that can find a diseased cell, treat it, and tell us about the local environment so we can determine whether the treatment is working. The nanocoral probes we invented are an important step in this direction.”