Scotland is pioneering groundbreaking technology which could see credit-card sized, disposable medical detection kits in GP practices within a decade.
An Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant of nearly £850,000 has been awarded to University of St Andrews physicists Professors Thomas Krauss and Kishan Dholakia to create an optical trap made of semiconductor laser material to form mini detection kits for bladder, lung and cervical cancer. The technology, which is already patented, could also detect biological warfare agents such as anthrax.
Professor Krauss, Professor of Optoelectronics in the School of Physics and Astronomy said, “At present, a range of diseases are detected by arrays of test tubes and expensive and complicated machines operated by skilled personnel. Lab-on-a-chip devices simplify biochemical testing and allow processes usually confined to a remote lab to take place at the point of care, for example in a GP practice. Our technology integrates lasers and detectors right onto the chip. Developing these techniques ‘on chip’ will make them potentially usable by patients as well as the medical profession”.
The technology offers all-optical sensing methods which the team can employ to detect diverse materials such as pollen, yeast, erythrocytes, bacteria and viruses. It is hoped that the detection devices could be commercially available within five to ten years.
Professor Krauss continued, “Any approach that simplifies a given test will reduce cost, but also make the given test more widely available and cover a myriad of diseases. By being mass-producible, the devices will also be disposable, thus avoiding problems of cross-contamination”.
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