Researchers at Columbia University recently completed the development of a tiny inexpensive chip capable of quickly detecting HIV, syphilis and other infectious diseases. During a recent experiments, prototypes of the credit card-sized mChip were used with hundreds of patients in Rwanda, reporting nearly 100% accuracy.
The mChip is aimed at medical services in developing countries and is aimed at solving 4 main problems:
Limited access to advanced medical technology in remote locations.
High cost of blood tests.
Long delays for results.
Require a professional trained medical personal.
Professor Samuel Sia from Columbia University lead researcher of the project recently said: ” The idea was to make a large class of diagnostic tests accessible to patients in any setting in the world, rather than forcing them to go to a clinic to draw blood and then wait days for their results”.
Price is one of the strongest aspects of the mChip. At around 1$ per unit the mChip is significantly cheaper than most existing comparable lab tests. An even bigger advantage is the ability of the mChip to perform several tests on the same minute blood sample – cutting cost, time (and blood samples) down considerably.
The immediacy of the mChip results is a big advantage in its own right. Patients can be notified about the result of the test within minutes rather than days and if necessary begin treatment immediately.
The mChip includes a microchip contained in a plastic casing. Unique disease “biomarkers” found in a tiny blood sample bind to one of up to 10 individual detection zones. A nano-size gold “reagent” is used to detect a substance via a chemical reaction, followed by a silver one that interacts with the gold to produce an ultra thin film.
During a recent trail In Rwanda, the mChip was tested in the Muhima Hospital in Kigali, where conventional blood tests typically take days or weeks because samples must be sent to an outside laboratory. From a total of 70 specimens with known HIV status, half male and half female, only one was tested as false, a result that is on par with the accuracy existing lab-based HIV tests. Other tests conducted with the mChip showed similar promising results.
More information can be found on the mChip website.
Iddo has a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science and an M.A. in Philosophy of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is currently writing his Ph.D. thesis on the relationship between the scientific community and industry. Iddo was awarded the 2006 Bar Hillel philosophy of science prize for his work on the relationship between science and technology. He is a member of the board of the lifeboat foundation and was the editor of several high-profile science and technology websites since 1999.