University of Virginia (U.Va.) professor James Landers is known as 'a master of compression' because he has reduced an entire laboratory for DNA analysis to a chip the size of a common everyday microscope slide. His future handheld device may allow 'physicians, crime scene investigators, pharmacists, even the general public, to quickly and inexpensively conduct DNA tests from almost anywhere, without need for a complex and expensive central laboratory.' Landers said that with his a lab-on-a-chip, 'it takes just 30 minutes to do the work it would take three technicians and three instruments to complete in a week.' So far, this system exists only in the lab, but read more...
You can see above an artistic rendering of this future lab-on-a-chip. (Credit: James Landers at U.Va., and Jessica Norris for the artwork). This research project has been led by professor James Landers, and many members of his lab which is focusing on bioanalytical chemistry.
What would be the usages for such a credit-card-sized-system? "Such a device could be used in a doctor's office, for example, to quickly test for an array of infectious diseases, such as anthrax, avian flu or HIV, as well as for cancer or genetic defects. Because of the quick turnaround time, a patient would be able to wait only a short time onsite for a diagnosis. Appropriate treatment, if needed, could begin immediately. Currently, test tube-size fluid samples are sent to external labs for analysis, usually requiring a 24- to 48-hour wait for a result. 'Time is of the essence when dealing with an infectious disease such as meningitis,' Landers said. 'We can greatly reduce that test time, and reduce the anxiety a patient experiences while waiting.'"
It would also simplify genetic testing and the work of crime scene investigators. They "could collect and analyze even a tiny sample of blood or semen on the scene, enter the finding into a genetic database, and possibly identify the perpetrator very shortly after a crime has occurred. Likewise, agricultural biotechnologists could do very rapid genetic analysis on thousands of hybrid plants that have desirable properties such as drought and disease resistance, Landers said. 'We can now do lab work in volumes that are thousands of times smaller than would normally be used in a regular lab setup, and can do it up to 100 times faster,' he said. 'As we improve our techniques and capabilities, the costs of fabricating these micro-analysis devices will drop enough to employ them routinely in a wide variety of settings.'"
This research work has been published in the Analytical Chemistry journal. According to this document from the University of Virginia (September 3, 2008), the journal published this work under the title "Purification of Nucleic Acids in Microfluidic Devices" (Volume 80, Number 17, Pages 6472–6479, September 1, 2008). Here are two links to this article, in an HTML version and as a PDF document (8 pages, 909 KB). The above artwork has been picked from this PDF version.
But even if the subject of this article is related to the microfluidic devices studied by Landers, I'm not sure that this article refers to the findings described in the introduction of this post. First, this article is co-signed by Jian Wen, Lindsay A. Legendre, Joan M. Bienvenue, and James P. Landers, all from the University of Virginia and University of Virginia Health Sciences Center. Meanwhile, the September 17, 2008 U.Va. news release quoted above mentions that Landers worked with Mathew Begley, professor of mechanical engineering; Molly Hughes, assistant professor of internal medicine, and Sanford Feldman, director of the Center for Comparative Medicine.
So I'm wondering if the September 3, 2008 U.Va. document is pointing at the right Analytical Chemistry article. However, I haven't found another article published by Landers in 2008 in this journal. Any clues? Drop me a note.
Sources: Fariss Samarrai, University of Virginia news release, September 18, 2008; and various websites
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