A Lab in a Needle

While working alongside collaborators from two major institutions in Singapore, researchers at a lab in a needleHouston Methodist have developed a lab in a needle device that could provide instant results to routine lab tests to accelerate treatment and diagnosis by days.  One place where this device will be effective is in quickly detecting liver toxicity, a common side effect of chemotherapy.  It will test toxicity in 30 minutes; compare that to the several days it takes to currently perform the same test due to the multiple steps required before a physician interprets the test results and communicates them to the patient.

Developed by Houston Methodist, NTU Singapore, SIMTech and A*STAR, this invention was explained in the most recent issue of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Lab on a Chip.  Investigators demonstrated that two important steps of the lab in a needle approach accurately detected liver toxicity in AST and ALT.  The proteins that these indicators represent are among the most sensitive and widely-used liver enyzmes in all liver function tests today.  The joint research group were looking to develop a new class of device to collect patient samples, prepare them for testing, evaluate toxicity and display results in one easy-to-use process that would allow doctors and patients to immediately discuss treatment options.

Sample preparation was accomplished on one chip that incorporated a miniature motor and microfluidics, while amplification was performed on a second connected chip.  Evaluations in the two examined gene markers of liver toxicity were then accurately detected and consistent with previously-known changes, indicating that lab in a needle is an appropriate diagnostic option.  According to the researchers, the next step is to integrate the sample preparation and analysis chips into a miniaturized device.  Both A*STAR and SIMTECH have manufacturing process capabilities to develop a cost effective lab in needle device that can be scaled for mass production.

This study outcome represents the first time that all processes involved in the lab in a needle were integrated together successfully, and represents an important step in bringing a new real-time, easy-to-use diagnostic to the clinic and field with an immediate potential to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.  If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!