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3D-Printed Lab on a Chip Unleashes On-the-Spot Testing

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The researchers at McGill University have pioneered a 3D-printed “lab on a chip” that could transform the landscape of diagnostic testing. The chip, designed to be 3D-printed in just 30 minutes, stands as a remarkable innovation with the potential to make on-the-spot testing widely accessible. Published in the journal Advanced Materials, the study details the creation of capillaries chips that serve as miniature laboratories. What sets these chips apart is their single-use nature and independence from external power sources—they operate seamlessly with just a paper strip, utilizing capillary action. This mimics the phenomenon where a spilled liquid spontaneously wicks into a paper towel, showcasing a simplified yet effective mechanism.

Traditional diagnostics often rely on peripherals, creating a dependency on additional equipment. Professor David Juncker, Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at McGill and the senior author of the study draws a parallel to the evolution of cell phones from traditional desktop computers, emphasizing the elimination of the need for separate components. The advent of at-home testing, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, underscored the need for rapid and accessible diagnostics. While existing rapid tests have limitations and are primarily executed in central labs, the capillary chips offer a promising solution. Notably, these chips can be 3D-printed for various tests, including quantifying COVID-19 antibodies.

However, the journey from research breakthrough to practical application poses challenges. Regulatory approvals and securing necessary test materials stand as hurdles that the research team acknowledges. Yet, the proactive efforts of the team to adapt the technology for use with affordable 3D printers signal a commitment to overcoming these obstacles. The potential impact of this innovation is far-reaching. By speeding up diagnoses and enhancing patient care, the 3D-printed lab on a chip aims to usher in a new era of accessible testing. Professor Juncker envisions this advancement as a catalyst for individuals, researchers, and industries to explore possibilities in a cost-effective and user-friendly manner. Moreover, it holds the promise of empowering health professionals to rapidly craft tailored solutions at the point of care.

As this 3D-printed diagnostic technology progresses, it not only marks a significant milestone in the realm of healthcare but also hints at the transformative power of 3D printing in shaping the future of diagnostics.

By . Made-to-order diagnostic tests may be on the horizon: Researchers invent lab on a chip that can be 3D-printed in minutes.

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