MUNICH, Germany In its Zurich research laboratory, IBM has built a point-of-care diagnostic test device based on a silicon chip. One chip detects up to 16 pathogens and it does so faster and requiring less material than conventional labs-on-a-chip.
The device uses capillary forces to ingest the sample material which could be a patient's blood or a serum, explained IBM researcher Luc Gervais in an interview with EE Times. In order to manufacture the lab-on-a chip, the researchers used much the same lithography, etching and other manufacturing process steps as they do for semiconductor production, Gervais explained. The basis material is silicon, passivated by an oxide layer. On top of this, a polymer layer is used to affix the proteins used as indicators.
In comparison with available biochips, IBM claims its achievement needs much less sample liquid only 7 picoliter , and it provides its results in less than a minute. This makes it ideal for emergency use, IBM says in particular in cases where a patient's health condition can occur or worsen rapidly and thus physicians need a fast diagnosis. An example is cardiovascular disease, still one of the most frequent causes of death.
Depending on which indicator antibody proteins are used, the device however can detect a very broad range of bacterial and viral infections as well as cancer markers or the so-called swine influenza. It also can be used to test for chemical and biohazards, the company says.
For the readout, a sensor is used that resembles the CMOS or CCD devices used in digital cameras. However, in order to enable one-time-use and at the same time keep the price for the device low, biochip and sensor are not integrated. Instead, the sensor is part of a separate readout device.
For the commercialization of the biochip, IBM collaborates with a company named Coris BioConcept (Gembloux, Belgium), Gervais said.
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