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Alberto Lopez
Intro to Nanotechnology
Lab on Chip Devices
Fall 2014

Professor Wesley Sanders
Intro to Nanotechnology
Fall 2014

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Healthcare is a rapidly growing and rapidly changing industry. It provides people with
opportunities to progress and also helps people live longer and better lives. Within the medical
healthcare field is a whole infrastructure that makes that progression possible. Research and
development in my opinion is the backbone of healthcare. If the technology must mutate just as a
virus does to survive, without new technologies today we cannot fight the diseases of tomorrow.
There is a new technology that is currently being devolved that will revolutionize the medical
world. It is referred to as Lab-on-a-chip or LoC, It is exactly what the name says, a very small
device, only a few millimeters in size, that can produce test results that are done in formal labs.
These devices can potentially decrease healthcare cost, improve medical diagnostics, and lead to
new medical breakthroughs.
Lab-on-a-Chip is synonyms with microfluidics, these chips are also know by the name of:
Microfluidic Devices. The device usually comes in the form factor of a small silicon wafer that
has channels and groves etched or stamped into it, all at a micro scale. Some devices are more
intricate than others, depending on their end-use, some even have electronics built into them.
Regardless of their design the reason they are referred to as Microfluidic Devices is that they all
work with very small volumes of fluids. They are able to perform their designed function with
very small levels of fluids. This is one of the appeals to using such devices. The ability to work
in Pico liters of fluids is amazing, and these devices can manipulate fluids from 10–9 to 10–18
The commercial use of these devices is something we should all be looking forward to.
To be able to have these types of devices available for testing patients at hospitals and clinics
would be great. The implications of lab test or analysis being performed at a nano scale are also
tremendous. One significant advantage is you wouldn’t need a lot of patient samples ( ie blood or

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saliva) to perform the necessary test. Because a little sample goes a long way, multiple studies
could be conducted from one sample obtained from the patient. This reduces the trauma of
getting samples from the patient multiple times. This is not the only benefit that deals with
microfluidic properties of these devices. There are many; cost of lab work could also go down
significantly because the reagents necessary to perform the reactions for the test are in such small
quantities that the cost savings over time could be very significant.
One of the things to makes LoC so desirable is their potential use in patient care. Right
now most hospitals and clinics must take very well educated guesses as to what is wrong with a
patient to provide rapid medical attention. Most often than not, blood or some sort of sample is
sent to a lab for analysis and testing. It is not until the results come back from an offsite lab that
the doctor can determine exactly what, if anything at all, the patient has. The faster a patients can
be diagnosed the better, sometimes it may even be a matter of life and death. LoC can help
expedite this diagnostics process. There is no need to send samples out to labs for analysis if you
have one right there in the office or hospital. It’s so small that facilities don’t need to expand to
just fix a “lab” in their office. So once you tear down the time required in sending samples to the
labs what else can be done to improve turnaround time? PCR, polymerase chain reaction is the
The field of molecular biology has a lot to gain from LoC devices, and vice versa. DNA
sequencing and microanalysis of DNA is possible on LoC devices. A study was conducted in
Italy that dealt with real-time PCR for detection of target DNA sequences. The study was done in
Milan, Italy by Barbara Foglieni and others. This study differed slightly from other tests that
were previously done on LoC devices using PCR. This test combined PCR amplification with a
customizable array that could be used to detect multiple sequences at a time. The reason for

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doing this study was this, “The development of simple, rapid and point-of-care diagnostic tests is
essential for the evolution of future molecular medicine.” They understand that the need for point
of care diagnostics is very important. They were able to obtain some very exciting results, the
study was not a simple task by any means, it required extensive planning. They designed the
assays and the microarrays configuration and they designed the chip to effectively execute the
polymerase chain reaction that identified DNA sequences. The results of this study were pretty
amazing. They said: “the system can potentially genotype up to 4 different samples for the same
15–20 mutations, or can amplify and analyze four different PCR reactions from the same patient,
according to the platform design.”. Not only can they map the genome of different samples but it
can be used again to test 4 targets from one patient sample.
The ability for a hospital or clinic to use this type of equipment onsite would be amazing.
It could provide very fast and accurate results in-house. The ability that this specific design has
to process multiple samples at one time is fantastic. If this was combined with specific targets
sequence matching and detection it would revolutionize medicine. The best part is that it all
happens on a chip that can easily fit on the palm of your hand. The team that conducted the study
had the following to say about their study, “The overall results show that the present platform is
very promising for rapid identification of DNA sequence variations in an integrated, cost
effective and convenient silicon chip format.” They didn’t make much mention of the
possibilities this study can have but I can almost guarantee that they were more than excited to
see such great results.

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In the world of nanotechnology it is common knowledge that the molecular properties of
an element at a macro scale work differently than those at a micro scale, of the same element.
Scientist and research personnel can manipulate fluids at the micro level and make possible
things that are not possible at a macro scale. This interesting property that comes with working at
the nano level of science can bring to light new ideas that have not been seen before. We could
see new innovation come from the development of LoCs. Because the concept of labs on a chip
is still fairly new its full potential has not been seen. But it does show great promise already to
revolutionize medical diagnostics and labs. Currently the availability of LoCs are limited to
research and development labs.
This new technology does face some challenges in order to become commercially
available. Right now the cost and time associated with the manufacturing of such devices is not
something worth the venture. One of the ideas that has been around since the original thought of
LoC’s is of creating an inexpensive, easy to use system. While some have been able to produce
such device, they are not in mass production. The ideas and desires are in place to make
microfluidic devices the next generation diagnostics platform. As the technology improves and
people find ways of making these chips easier, faster and more reliable we will get closer to
having this type of product in our hands. Perhaps we could even have them available for personal
home use. The possibilities are endless and it is only a matter of time before we see this wave of
medical devices.

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Works Cited

Daw, Rosamund, and Joshua Finkelstein. "Lab On A Chip." Nature 442.7101 (2006): 367.
Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

MALIK, ASMITA, S RAJA, and P GUPTA. "Versatile Laser Microfabrication Techniques For
Lab-On-Chip Devices In General And Uranium Analysis In Particular." Pramana: Journal Of
Physics 82.2 (2014): 243-248. Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

Foglieni, Barbara, et al. "Integrated PCR Amplification And Detection Processes On A Lab-OnChip Platform: A New Advanced Solution For Molecular Diagnostics." Clinical Chemistry &
Laboratory Medicine 48.3 (2010): 329-336. Academic Search Premier. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

Rodrigues Ribeiro Teles, Fernando Sérgio, Luís Alfredo Pires de Távora Tavira, and Luís
Joaquim Pina da Fonseca. "Biosensors As Rapid Diagnostic Tests For Tropical Diseases."
Critical Reviews In Clinical Laboratory Sciences 47.3 (2010): 139-169. Academic Search
Premier. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

Whitesides, George M. "The Origins And The Future Of Microfluidics." Nature 442.7101
(2006): 368-373. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.

LOC http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/docs/cleanup/nanotechnology/chapter-3-lab-on-a-chip.pdf