Focus on Technology
Wed September 4, 2013
Diagnosing illness in less than three minutes
Have you ever wanted an instant diagnosis? Medical tests can often take hours, days, or weeks to generate results. This can delay medication. Patients face this problem frequently as they wait for tests on things like the flu and strep throat.
But there is a device developed at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California that is able to identify germs in less than three minutes. (expected to be on the market in about 5 years)
Watch this video to find out what it is and how it works.
Research engineer Elizabeth Wheeler likens it to a photo copy machine. "You make many copies of the DNA. You start with a very small amount, amplify it and make copies and see what is in there. So it allows you to detect early on when there is not a lot of sample."
She says the power of this is the speed. It uses porous material and a thin-film resistive heater, making possible heating and cooling rates of 45 degrees Celsius per second, for a thermal cycle speed of less than 2.5 seconds.
Would it work for more serious illness?
Wheeler says if an assay is developed for cancer, or other types of disease, it could detect the presence or the amount that would diagnosis it.
Could also work for food
Researchers say the device would also be useful in the livestock, poultry, agricultural and processed food industries to make sure food is safe to eat.