Home Diagnostic Tests Could Be Enabled By Microfluidic Integrated CircuitHome Diagnostic Tests Could Be Enabled By Microfluidic Integrated Circuit

Microfluidic integrated circuits have been originated by the researchers of University of Michigan as a technique to make simple lab-on-a-chip devices that could offer faster, low-cost and more portable medical tests.

These microfluidic circuits control the flowing of fluid through their devices without directions from outside systems. This process is similar to the computer chips where electronic circuits intelligently route the flow of electricity without external controls.

A paper on the technology is recently disclosed online in Nature Physics.

A microfluidic device, or lab-on-a-chip, combines more than one laboratory operations onto one chip only centimeters in size. The devices make allowance for the researchers to experiment with very small sample sizes, and also to perform multiple experiments on the same material at the same time. They can be cut out to simulate the human body more nearly than the Petri dish does. They could lead to on-the-spot home tests for illnesses, food contaminants and toxic gases are major among other advances.

"In most microfluidic devices today, there are essentially little fingers or pressure forces that open and close each individual valve to route fluid through the device during experiments. That is, there is an extra layer of control machinery that is required to manipulate the current in the fluidic circuit," said Shu Takayama, the principal investigator on the project. Takayama is an associate professor in the U-M Department of Biomedical Engineering.

That's same to how electronic circuits were manipulated a century before. Then, with the improvement of the integrated circuit, the "thinking" became embedded in the chip itself -- a technical step forward that enabled personal computers, Takayama said.

"We have literally made a microfluidic integrated circuit," said Bobak Mosadegh, a doctoral student in Takayama's lab who is first writer of the paper.

The outer controls that power today's microfluidic devices may be inconvenient. Every valve on a chip (and there could be dozens of them) needs its individual electromechanical push from an off-chip actuator or pump. This has made it hard to shrink microfluidic systems to palm- or fingertip-sized diagnostic devices.

The Takayama lab's innovation is a step in this direction. His research group has devised a strategy to produce the fluidic counterparts of key electrical components including transistors, diodes, resistors and capacitors, and to efficiently network these components to automatically regulate fluid flow within the device.

Because of the use of conventional techniques in the making of these components, they are suitable for all other microfluidic components such as mixers, filters and cell culture chambers.

"We've made a versatile control system," Mosadegh said. "We envision that this technology will become a platform for researchers and companies in the microfluidics field to develop sophisticated self-controlled microfluidic devices that automatically process biofluids such as blood and pharmaceuticals for diagnostics or other applications.

"Just as the integrated circuit brought the digital information processing power of computers to the people, we envision our microfluidic analog will be able to do the same for cellular and biochemical information."

The university is pursuing patent protection for the intellectual property, and is seeking commercialization partners to help bring the technology to market.

References and Bibliography
David Smith, Senior Vice President of USComponent.com , an IGBT power transistor module distributor since 2001.
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