London: Soon, you will no longer have to
send blood or cancer cell samples to the laboratory. A "health
chip" will give you test results on the spot, say scientists.
A project, known as MicroActive, by the European Union
has developed an integrated system -- based on microtechnology
and biotechnology -- which would enable a number of conditions
to be diagnosed automatically in the doctor`s own office.
The new "health chip" looks like a credit card and
contains a complete laboratory.
The EU project has used cells taken to diagnose
cervical cancer as a case study, but in principle the chip can
check out a number of different diseases caused by bacteria or
viruses, and various types of cancer, say the scientists.
The chip is engraved with a number of very narrow
channels that contain chemicals and enzymes in the correct
proportions for each individual analysis. When the patient`s
sample has been drawn into channels, these reagants are mixed.
"The health chip can analyse your blood or cells for
eight different diseases. What these diseases have in common
is that they are identified by means of special biomarkers
that are found in the blood sample.
"These `labels` may be proteins that either ought or
ought not to be there, DNA fragments or enzymes. This little
chip is capable of carrying out the same processes as a large
laboratory, and not only does it perform them faster, but the
results are also far more accurate.
"The doctor simply inserts the card into a little
machine, adds a few drop of the sample taken from the patient
via a tube in the cardholder, and outcome the results," said
Liv Furuberg and Michal Mielnik, associated with the project.