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On-chip processor: First step in point-of-care asthma, TB diagnostics

In the U.S., 12 percent of the population, or around 19 million people, have asthma. Researchers have developed a new device to mix liquids using ultrasonics. This is the first and most difficult component in a miniaturized system for low-cost analysis of sputum — mucus that is coughed up from the lower airways from patients with pulmonary diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and asthma. There are several problems with the current method for sputum analysis. Human specimens can be contagious, and sputum analysis requires handling of specimens in several discrete machines. With a lab-on-a-chip device, all biospecimens are safely contained in a single disposable component. Current systems are difficult to use and require trained operators. With the lab-on-a-chip system, a nurse can operate the device with a touch of a few buttons and get a read-out, or the patient could even operate the device at home. In addition, the disposable portion of the device should cost less than a dollar to manufacture.

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