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Microfluidic Chip – A Small yet Powerful Medical Diagnostic Device

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Microfluidic Chip, A Laboratory in Your Pocket

Simple, fast, cheap, but robust. These features are highly desirable for every scientific device.  Unfortunately, to create technology that fulfilled all of these aspects is extremely difficult. Nevertheless, one innovation might come with a complete package, the lab-on-a-chip or microfluidic chip technology.

As the name suggested, the lab on a chip technology allows miniaturization of laboratory processes into one small device (chip). The idea of having a lab that can fit into your pocket is ideal for research and diagnostic purpose in a remote location.

This device is made possible through the microfluidic concept. The microfluidic principle allows manipulation of fluid at small volume (micro is equal to one-millionth). Further development has also even enabled the concept of nanofluidics.

All of the processes (e.g. mixing and chemical reaction) happened in the super small channels that are integrated into one circuit.

Compact  but full of advantages

The size and compactness of microfluidic chip have blessed this technology with many advantages. Due to its small size, the microfluidic chip only requires a small volume of sample and other solutions. It can be as few as picolitre, which is equal to one-trillionth of a liter!

This aspect is important when we only have limited samples to work on. It is also more sustainable as less chemical waste is produced.

Moreover, microfluidic chip is also able to produce result faster than the normal manual testing. This is due to the short distance traveled by the solution which allows faster reaction.

Rahim Esfandyarpour from University of Stanford helped to develop the diagnostic “lab on a chip” (Source: New Scientist)

Rahim Esfandyarpour from University of Stanford helped to develop the diagnostic “lab on a chip” (Source: New Scientist)

Furthermore, the cost to manufacture microfluidic chip is also inexpensive. Last year, scientists from Stanford University has proved this claim by creating a chip device for early cancer detection that only cost them a penny!

A sophisticated diagnostic procedure of chronic diseases can be very lengthy and expensive. This is a grave problem especially for developing countries, as the procedure is unaffordable as most of them even still struggling to fulfill the basic needs. Hence, microfluidic chip can be the perfect solution for this problem.

Microfluidic Chip, Future prominent Diagnostic Tool

While not many microfluidic chips have been successfully commercialized, it held promising prospect as a Point of Care testing (PoCT).

PoCT is a medical test that can be performed at the patient´s bedside. This type of testing does not require the sample to be sent to the medical laboratory. This allows the result to be obtained on the same day.

Furthermore, In places where medical facilities are greatly limited (e.g. refugee camp, developing countries), microfluidic chip as PoCT can be a valuable tool to help with early diagnosis of diseases. It is very important in the case of infectious diseases where early diagnosis can prevent the spread of the diseases.

According to News Medical, many researchers are conducting to develop microfluidic chip technology for the detection of microorganisms that cause diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrhea.

Conclusion

To conclude, microfluidic chip can be a very powerful diagnostic device especially for patients in secluded places. Not only because of the portable size, but also due its low manufacturing cost and sustainability.

Whilst still on trial phases, many scientists are developing microfluidic chips for many diagnostic purposes. With the rapid development in nanotechnology sector, we believe in won´t be long until we can have a laboratory in our pocket.

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