Our bodies are an ever-changing chemical soup, where the amounts of various molecules increase and decrease according to our health and physical condition. These are known as biomarkers, as they can be used to determine the presence of disease or other conditions. The problem is that it’s not easy to analyze the contents of a sample, and often requires a large lab filled with sophisticated equipment that takes time to complete its processing.
A “lab on a chip” is a powerful new concept that can take tiny samples and separate out different chemicals that are of interest. These can be tiny devices that could be incorporated into wearable or implanted systems. The problem is that actually detecting the separate components can be difficult. Researchers at Rutgers University have come up with a system that could make it quick and easy to evaluate biomarker samples. They have come up with a way to use nanoelectronic barcoding to distinguish between tiny microspheres. By coding different spheres to respond to different molecules, they can be detected based on their electrical characteristics. The result is a compact system that operates continuously with real time reporting, and could be contained in a microchip without the need for a bulky reader.
The system is already 95 percent accurate, according to the researchers, and they are working toward 100 percent accuracy. They believe that the technology could be available commercially within two years, and could be available in products in about five years.