NanoLab: A Hand-Held Diagnostic Labratory

Drew Hall and Team, Stanford United States of America

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In third world countries, access to medical diagnostic laboratories and well trained technicians is limited. As a result, the majority of diagnoses in these regions are based upon patient signs and symptoms. While this method of patient care is suitable in straightforward situations such as diagnosing the flu, the vast majority of illnesses cannot be determined by simple observation. In contrast, in the developed world, medical decision-making is increasingly based on molecular testing where quantitative detection of disease-specific proteins in serum and other bodily fluids has become the basis behind virtually any therapy. Here, we present a technology that will make it feasible to bring the same diagnostic potential of the developed world to third world countries or the patient’s home. More specifically, we have designed a handheld device capable of quantitative multiplex protein detection in a very simple to use, wash-free assay that is more sensitive than the Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA), the current gold standard in protein detection. Due to the ease of use, portability, and low cost, our platform could have a very broad impact on society ranging from molecular diagnostics in remote villages in Africa (which lack laboratory equipment and skilled technicians) to over the counter home diagnostics kits that can be purchased at your local pharmacy.

In order to make the protein detection platform portable and easy to use, we have developed a new, innovative wash-free assay that requires only three simple steps by the end user (Figure 1). First, the end user places the sample (saliva, blood, serum, urine, cell lysates, etc.) into the reaction well. Second, a few drops of a solution containing magnetic nanoparticles is added. Finally, the detection antibody is introduced. Fifteen minutes after the detection antibody is added, the NanoLab test module will convert the concentration of protein detected into a colored light output. If the light is off, the protein is undetectable. A green light indicates low protein concentration, an orange light indicates medium protein concentration, and a red light indicates high protein concentration (Refer toFigure 10 for more details). Since the reaction well is equipped with 8 sensors, we are capable of monitoring up to 8 different proteins simultaneously in a single assay.

The NanoLab test module has the potential for exceptionally broad impact on society ranging from life saving clinical diagnostics in the third world to rapid over the counter tests sold in pharmacies across the US. Since the NanoLab is portable, cheap (Appendix II) and exceptionally easy to use, it can be implemented anywhere in the world without relying on skilled technicians or expensive laboratory equipment. Furthermore, with the NanoLab, the user has the ability to monitor many different proteins simultaneously in a single assay providing him or her with even better diagnostic information than any single assay.

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