They could be used miles from the nearest medical clinic to test for anything from HIV to diabetes, they said.
But as powerful as they may be, they could be far better, said Shiyan Hu, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University. Generally, a lab-on-a-chip (LOC) can run no more than a test or two.
That's because the chips are designed manually, said Hu.
If the LOC were made using computer-aided design, you could run dozens of tests with a single drop of blood. "In a very short time, you could test for many conditions. This really would be an entire lab on a chip," he said.
With PhD student Chen Liao, Hu has taken the first step.
"We have developed software to design the hardware," he said.
Their work focuses on routing the droplet of blood or other fluid through each test on the chip efficiently while avoiding any chip contamination. "It has taken us four years to do the software, but to
manufacture the LOC would be inexpensive. The materials are
very cheap, and the results are more accurate than a conventional lab's," said Hu.
Ultimately, Hu aims to fabricate their own bio-chip using their software.
The study was published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Nanobiosciences.