New handheld device may diagnose cancer, TB in minutes

A UK-based startup claims to have developed a new smartphone-sized, handheld device that may accurately diagnose everything from cancers to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis in a matter of minutes.

London: A UK-based startup claims to have developed a new smartphone-sized, handheld device that may accurately diagnose everything from cancers to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis in a matter of minutes.

The DNA analyser called Q-Poc runs on a solar-powered battery or wind-up device and is designed to read biological samples submitted through a credit card-size cartridge.

It can work with a range of sample types. Swabs can be used to detect sexually-transmitted infections, while sputum is used to detect tuberculosis.

"We are now at the point that we have a working prototype that can perform a highly sensitive tuberculosis test from a sample through to results in 15-20 minutes," said Jonathan O'Halloran, co-founder of the company QuantuMDx which developed the device.

"The technology is now being ramped up to beta stage and we hope to start manufacturing towards the end of this year," said O'Halloran.

Q-poc analyses the DNA of pathogens rather than the proteins within the sample. It depends on microfluidic technology, which allows fluids to pass through different microscopic channels of different diametres, 'The Guardian' reported.

A chemical process breaks down the sample into a molecular soup, which is then forced through a nanoscale-based filter system.

The filter is coated with a negatively charged polymer. This repels the DNA as other molecules are held back, thereby isolating the DNA for analysis. Q-Poc will initially be used to detect tuberculosis, with tests for other disease conditions added at a later date.

The device has built-in cellphone technology, enabling the test results to be geo-stamped and shared in real time, potentially opening the door to continuous monitoring of disease and antimicrobial resistance, O'Halloran said.

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