Barcode Chip from Caltech Revolutionizes Blood Testing
Researchers at Caltech have developed a rapid, inexpensive means of screening for diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The device is expected to revolutionize blood testing by eliminating time and expense.
The Integrated Blood-Barcode Chip, or IBBC, was developed by lead researcher James R. Heath, the Elizabeth W. Gilloon Professor and professor of chemistry, in conjunction with Rong Fan, a postdoctoral professor, and graduate student Ophir Vermesh, and Leroy Hood, Institute Systems Biology president in Seattle Washington.
The Caltech group presented the IBBC device in the advance online edition of Nature Biotechnology. The barcode chip is manufactured from a substrate of glass, about the size of a microscopic slide, covered with a silicone rubber. IBBC contains multiple circuits that separate blood from plasma, measuring dozens of proteins as blood quickly travels through the microcircuits. Testing can be done with a pinprick versus drawing multiple blood samples from the vein. The molded system separates blood from plasma, eliminating the need for traditional centrifuging currently used to separate blood and plasma in the laboratory.
Dr. Heath says, "The process is labor intensive, and even if the person doing the testing hurries, the tests will still take a few hours to complete." The Barcode chip (IBBC) dramatically lowers the cost and turnaround time of blood testing. A single protein analysis costs $50 and can be complete in about ten minutes.
The relative inexpensiveness of the test can provide results in less than ten minutes. Dr. Health says less time spent analyzing blood saves money. "We wanted to dramatically lower the cost of such measurements, by orders of magnitude."
One chip can test the blood of eight patients. Dr. Heath says, "We are aiming to measure 100 proteins per fingerprick within a year or so. It's a pretty enabling technology."
In order to test the results of the barcode chip, the researchers measured pregnancy hormones and proteins that are biomarkers of breast and prostate cancer. Currently, the IBBC is being tested on patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. The information is being read with a basic lab scanner, but Dr. Fan, first author of the study says, "it should be very easy to design something like a supermarket UPC scanner to read the information."
Look for the December print edition of Nature Biotechnology. The article, titled "Integrated barcode chips for rapid, multiplexed analysis of proteins in microliter quantities of blood" will be featured on the cover. The barcode chip is expected to allow a more individualized approach to healthcare as therapies are delivered, such as diabetic response to insulin therapy.