The 1-cent lab

The survival rate of breast cancer patients in low-income nations is 40 percent. In developed nations, it’s twice that. Malaria, tuberculosis and HIV all tell similar stories. With better access to inexpensive diagnostics, those narratives could be changed.

Researchers at the School of Medicine have developed a cheap, reusable “lab on a chip” that is expected to cost as little as 1 cent per chip to produce.

The system has two parts: a silicone microfluidic chamber for housing cells and an electronic strip printed on flexible polyester using a regular inkjet printer and commercially available conductive nanoparticle ink. It separates cells based on their intrinsic electrical properties using a process called dielectrophoresis.

The technology could usher in a diagnostics revolution like that brought on by low-cost genome sequencing, says Ron Davis, PhD, professor of biochemistry and of genetics.

Davis is the senior author of a study describing the technology, published in February 2017 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.