New technology could help rapid medical diagnostic tools

Researchers at the University of Bristol have developed new technology that can accelerate the development of rapid medical diagnostic tools.

Example of 100 micron wide 3D printed microchannel scaffolding, shown alongside a 20 pence coin – the cost of printing 1,000 of these channels (Image: University of Bristol)

Microfluidic devices underpin lab-on-a-chip (LOC) technologies, which are being developed to provide the rapid point-of-care diagnostics needed for the effective treatment of many diseases. The Bristol team said their new technology is a fast, reliable and cost-effective alternative to producing the flexible lithographic molds used to fabricate microfluidic devices.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, their study explains how the fabrication of microfluidic devices with channel dimensions around the width of a human hair could be accessible and affordable using simple and inexpensive 3D printing techniques and open source resources developed by the team.

“Previously, the production techniques of flexible lithographic scaffolding / molds [microfluidic channel patterns] were time-consuming and extremely expensive, while other low-cost alternatives were prone to unfavorable properties, ”said lead author of the study, Dr. Robert Hughes. “This development could put LOC prototyping in the hands of researchers and clinicians most familiar with the challenges, especially those in resource-constrained environments where rapid diagnostics can often have the greatest impact.”

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Co-author Harry Felton said the technique will allow devices to be made using only everyday household or educational devices and at “negligible cost,” meaning researchers and clinicians could make rapid medical diagnosis with minimal additional expertise or resources required.

“The simplicity and minimal cost of this technique, along with the playful click-and-connect approach developed, also make it suitable for hobbyists and educational use, for teaching microfluidics and laboratory technology applications on puce, ”said co-author Andrea Diaz Gaxiola.

The team’s next step is to identify potential collaborators in research and education to help demonstrate the impact of their technology in both contexts by developing and supporting outreach activities and applications for testing. on-chip diagnostics.

The research was the result of activities funded by the EPSRC, through the BristolBridge initiative, and so-called pump funding from the Faculty of Engineering, as well as work carried out under the Digital Model Twinning project. -physics during prototyping, funded by EPSRC.

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