Diagnostic technologies provide an unrivalled wealth of diagnostic, prognostic and epidemiological data to support the treatment of virtually any disease. They form the foundation of any successful healthcare system and are invaluable for decreasing both morbidity and mortality. Despite this, the technologies which form the foundation of contemporary diagnostics labs are still overly reliant on aging technology and sub-optimal techniques. Given the importance of diagnostics, novel approaches to tackling these issues could revolutionise the field of medicine and significantly improve the quality of life at a global level.
Microfluidic technologies are ideally positioned to help address the challenges of modern diagnostics and make a significant impact across the entire research landscape; from ultra-sensitive laboratory-based assays through to end-user operated devices for infectious disease diagnostics. Their ability to automate a range of functional operations (such as sample pre-concentration, filtration, extraction, reaction, separation and target detection) within a single device facilitates the creation of fully integrated diagnostics designed to operate with minimal user-input. This is particularly important to the field of point-of-care (PoC) diagnostics within resource-limited settings, where access to complex infrastructure and professional medical personnel is limited.
Emerging research from the deMello group aims to exploit our extensive knowledge of microfluidics, electrochemistry, nanomaterials and biochemistry to develop innovative diagnostic platforms. For example, recently we developed a novel paper-based diagnostic for the detection of Methicilin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This technique utilised Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) and fluorescence imaging to achieve a detection limit of 10 attograms of the MRSA-associated mecA gene, equivalent to a single copy of the gene ☍. Similarly, the group have reported paper-based assays, which exploit silver nanoplates to achieve ultra-sensitive MRSA detection colourimetrically. This allows users to interpret the test using a smartphone or even the naked eye ☍. In addition to these tests for bacterial pathogens, we have recently published work on the electrochemical and colourimetric detection of the fungal toxin Ochratoxin A ☍☍. Finally, we are also active in the fight against COVID-19, and are a key partner in Swiss research consortium (DAVINCI) ☍ established to develop a point-of-care in vitro diagnostic (IVD) for SARS-COV-2.