Scientists Create Microchip Technology to Diagnose Diseases Like Malaria, HIV That Costs Only a Penny to Make

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Scientists Created Microchip Technology to Diagnose Diseases Like Malaria, HIV That Costs Only a Penny to Make
PHOTOGRAPH: DarkoStojanovic |

Scientists are able to develop a microchip technology that is really cheap and fast to make. This new tech can diagnose diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS which would surely be helpful especially to places that do not have access to the conventional tests.

Poor Countries Have No Access To Diagnostic Tests

The healthcare worker visits a malaria patient in Kenya.

Millions of deaths caused by malaria, respiratory infections, sexually transmitted infections and more occur each year. Ninety-five percent of these deaths happen in developing countries that simple diagnoses do not reach.

These tests are crucial in order to identify and figure out how to exactly fight the disease of the patient. But because these tests need proper diagnoses that are done in laboratories and hospitals, poor countries, where they are needed the most, do not have sufficient funds to create them.

That is why many scientists are trying to create low-cost medical tests that can be used to reach places with challenging health situations. Through hard work, a team of researchers from Stanford found a way to create the disease-diagnosing microchip that costs extremely cheap.

A Penny for A Microchip

The conventional process of diagnostic tests includes bulky and lab equipment using spinning centrifuges, membranes or magnets. It is a complex mechanism attempted to be simplified by innovations like labs-on-a-chip.

This lab-on-a-chip is a device that integrates lab functions into a single chip that uses droplets of liquid a millionth of a liter which goes through various processes to detect individual proteins. The microchip recently created by the researchers, meanwhile, is a multilayer of stacks.

So how does it work? Since it is made up of conductive particles, electric current can be used to move the particles that will make way for sorting and manipulating of the tests.

These are remarkably printed using inkjet printer while a silicone (not to be confused with silicon) section is used to hold the sample. What is more impressive is the cost and time frame of making the microchip technology which is – wait for it – a penny and 20 minutes.

The director of Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego, Eric Topol, acknowledges the notable invention of the researchers. Topol told Gizmodo said it is a “breakthrough” – a word he does not use “too liberally.”

Diseases Such as Malaria and HIV Can Be Diagnosed

The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recounts the many tests done in the chip. Aside from the isolation of small plastic particles, they were also able to capture yeast and breast cells without killing them.

This could be used to diagnose various diseases including malaria and HIV especially in poor countries that lack the funds for the laboratory equipment. With an accurate and stable diagnosis, more patients would be treated effectively.

Topol adds that there are “incredible amounts of uses” for the microchip and it cannot be beaten especially when it can be done “so cheaply.” In the meantime, it is not yet known when the microchip technology will be available for commercial use.


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