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New lab-on-chip advance uses low-cost, disposable paper strips

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers have invented a technique that uses inexpensive paper to make "microfluidic" devices for rapid medical diagnostics and chemical analysis.

The innovation represents a way to enhance commercially available diagnostic devices that use paper-strip assays like those that test for diabetes and pregnancy.

"With current systems that use paper test strips you can measure things like pH or blood sugar, but you can't perform more complex chemical assays," said Babak Ziaie, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering. "This new approach offers the potential to extend the inexpensive paper-based systems so that they are able to do more complicated multiple analyses on the same piece of paper. It's a generic platform that can be used for a variety of applications.╙

Findings are detailed in a research paper published online this week in the journal Lab on a Chip.

Current lab-on-a-chip technology is relatively expensive because chips must be specifically designed to perform certain types of chemical analyses, with channels created in glass or plastic and tiny pumps and valves directing the flow of fluids for testing.

The chips are being used for various applications in medicine and research, measuring specific types of cells and molecules in a patient's blood, monitoring microorganisms in the environment and in foods, and separating biological molecules for laboratory analyses. But the chips, which are roughly palm-size or smaller, are difficult to design and manufacture.

The new technique is simpler because the testing platform will be contained on a disposable paper strip containing patterns created by a laser. The researchers start with paper having a hydrophobic - or water-repellant - coating, such as parchment paper or wax paper used for cooking.

"We can buy this paper at any large discount retail store," Ziai

Contact: Emil Venere
Purdue University

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