Research rundown: lab on a chip technology could revolutionize disease diagnosis and clinical research

Apr 4, 2017
Research rundown: lab on a chip technology could revolutionize disease diagnosis and clinical research

The claim

A group of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a method to produce a cheap and reusable diagnostic lab on a chip with the help of an ordinary inkjet printer.

The science

Lab on a chip technology is a new method being tested in multiple areas of healthcare, including diagnostics and medical research. The idea behind the technology is to offer a smaller, cheaper and quicker testing alternative to traditional methods, yet one that retains the same degree of accuracy.

Many lab on a chip solutions include the use of a microfluidic device (a very small piece of plastic or glass with microchannels molded into its surface) through which fluids, such as blood or urine, can be passed. The channels can be lined with types of molecules that interact with certain elements within the fluids or, alternatively, the channels can be made into different widths allowing for the filtering out of specific cells from fluid samples.

The aim

To create an affordable version of a lab on a chip that can be easily reproduced using inexpensive and accessible technology.

The method

The lab on a chip platform created by the Stanford researchers consisted of two elements: a clear silicone microfluidic device and an inkjet printer. The inkjet printer was used to print reusable electronic strips that could be applied to the chips to filter specific cells out from fluid samples based on their electrical potential.

The results

The team successfully created a lab on a chip solution capable of capturing single cells from a mix, isolating rare cells and counting cells based on cell types from fluid samples for a total cost of ¢1.

The potential

Lab on a chip technology has the potential to revolutionize diagnostic testing and clinical research by greatly reducing the amount of time and money needed to perform certain tests. It has great potential in developing countries where access to early diagnostics and a lower national income results in more deaths from common health issues such as respiratory infections.1

Various academic institutions are developing lab on a chip platforms that mimic specific organs and tissues, allowing for the measurement of drug effects on specific parts of the body. A team of researchers recently created an ‘organ on a chip’ version of the technology that mimics heart function2 and another has created an ‘airway on a chip’ that replicates lung tissue.3

The chip developed in this study represents a particularly inexpensive and accessible platform.

The source

Rahim Esfandyarpour, Matthew DiDonato, Yuxin Yang, Naside Gozde Durmus, James Harris, Ronald Davis. Multifunctional, inexpensive, and reusable nanoparticle-printed biochip for cell manipulation and diagnosis. PNAS, 2017; 201621318.


1World Health Organization (2017). The top 10 causes of death. Available from: (accessed February 2017).

2Alison Schroer, Matthew Shotwell, Veniamin Sidorov, John Wikswo, David Merryman. I-Wire Heart-on-a-Chip II: Biomechanical analysis of contractile, three-dimensional cardiomyocyte tissue constructs. Acta Biomaterialia, 2017; 48: 79-87.

3Kambez Benam, Remi Villenave, Carolina Lucchesi, Antonio Varone, Cedric Hubeau, Hyun-Hee Lee, Stephen E. Alves et al. Small airway-on-a-chip enables analysis of human lung inflammation and drug responses in vitro. Nature methods, 2016;13, 2: 151-157.

Research rundown: lab on a chip technology could revolutionize disease diagnosis and clinical research

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