Bird flu advance warning given by microchip
12 July 2006
A detection chip for spotting bird flu in remote geographic areas could soon become a reality, claim scientists in Singapore.
The research is reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry's journal Molecular BioSystems.
A group led by Pavel Neuzil at Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology has developed a device to amplify DNA, which will become the central part of the "lab on a chip" system.
Neuzil said: "A potential use for the device is in identifying diseases, such as bird flu, in remote areas.
"Currently the detection process can take several days as samples are transferred to central laboratories.
"Using an on-site system would speed up the whole process and help identify an infection outbreak."
The glass slides used on the chips are cheap and also disposable - meaning contamination of samples will be avoided.
A reaction called the "polymerase chain reaction" is used in the chip to multiply up the DNA, using a cycle of heating and cooling.
Conventional lab based equipment is bulky and slow - using large samples and reaction tubes. But the research team's microchip can analyse samples as small as 1Ál (one millionth of a litre). They also use only small amounts of power and the research team is developing a portable battery pack.
with thanks to Laura Howes for original article
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