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Micro-chip enables disease screening

By Tim Sandle     Jun 1, 2015 in Science
Bellinzona - A one centimeter sized chip that can be inserted under the skin, and feeding into a special patch with results transmitted to a smartphone, could be the answer to health monitoring and disease detection.
The new biosensor chip has been created at École Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne. The chip functions by monitoring the concentration of a range of different molecules. This includes common health indicators like glucose and cholesterol. According to the research note, the chip can also detect a range of different drug metabolites. The key advantage is that the chip avoids the necessity of drawing blood samples from patients for analysis. Here, as well as the use of a needle, the advantage is that the analysis is near instantaneous whereas tests on blood can take hours or days.
The chip itself was developed by Integrated Systems Laboratory and the Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit Group. Researchers at the École Polytechnique then configured the biochemical aspects.
The device, Medical News reports, contains six different sensors and it is charged by an external battery, which is located in the skin patch. The data collected is sent via Bluetooth to a smartphone equipped with the interpretation software. Initial studies have shown that the device will keep working for several weeks.
The chip is a step forward because earlier devices monitored parameters within the body like variations in temperature or pH. This new chip undertakes the analysis of key metabolism related molecules. The device can also detect the presence of certain drugs, such as paracetamol. It does so through a series of micro-sized electrochemical sensors. The idea is a little like the proverbial canary in a cage. If a certain metabolite is out of range an alarm will sound.
Studies to date have been undertaken using mice. Trials were conducted at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Bellinzona. The results met the design expectations and further trials are set to take place. Human trials are a little way off.
The downside in terms of future human applications is that the chip will need to be surgically implanted beneath the skin. Some may not like the procedure or be less keen on walking around with an artificial device inside of them.
More about biosensor, Microchip, Skin, Disease, metabolites
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