A “USB” for Medical Diagnosis?

November 30, 2010 – 6:13 pm

The clear block to the right is the Fit-to-Flow connector, with a microfluidic chip inserted. Channels take red and blue fluid through the connector to the chip. USB flash drive shown for scale. Credit: Tingrui Pan, UC Davis

Biomedical engineers at UC Davis have developed a plug-in interface for the microfluidic chips that could form the basis of compact medical devices in the future. The researchers hope that the fit-to-flow interface will become as ubiquitous as the USB interface for computer peripherals. A paper describing the devices was published online by the journal Lab on a Chip.

“We think there is a huge need for an interface to bridge microfluidics to electronic devices,” says Tingrui Pan, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UC Davis. Pan and graduate student Arnold Chen, invented the chip and co-authored the paper.

Microfluidic devices use channels as small as a few micrometers across, cut into a plastic membrane, to carry out biological or chemical tests on a miniature scale. They could be used, for example, in compact devices used for medical diagnosis.

Cell phones with increasingly sophisticated cameras could be turned into microscopes that could read such tests in the field.

More information is available on the research from EurekAlert!

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