A lab-on-a-chip is a miniature device that allows the user to integrate several analyses such as DNA sequencing or biochemical detection on a low-cost chip(1). Lab-on-a-chip research mainly focuses on human diagnostics and biosensing. LOCs allow for reduction of cost through faster analysis of reagents and response time(2). This helps achieve high-throughput screening and automation of biochemical steps / processes onto a single device.
Advantages of lab-on-a-chip devices are generally specialized to their application. Common advantages of LOCs are: waste reduction, efficient resource usage, increased process control, and quicker analysis and response times(3). Compared to normal experiments, LOCs utilize less sample volumes due to the use of microfluidics(4). This generates lower reagent costs. Microfluidic chips also allow for increased process control due to faster system responses(5). The shorter diffusion distance also allows for rapid results, reducing response times and enabling faster analysis to be conducted(6).
LOCs have high potential in developing countries as a tool for rapid and early diagnosis of infectious diseases. The swift results would enable identification of specific strains and correct treatment on a timely manner. In 2017, a group of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Washington at Tacoma developed an novel platform to detect the the presence of Zika, Dengue, and the Chikungunya virus through a single drop of blood, microfluidic chip, and a smartphone-integrated system(7). This simple, portable system is able to simultaneously test for more than one pathogen in a single test protocol and achieves results comparable to those obtained to standard laboratory setting(8). This application of a lab-on-a-chip lowers cost, saves time and effort, and ensures quick diagnosis to ensure early treatment(9).
Lab-on-a-chip devices face several challenges that prevent it from being fully integrated into mainstream use, with a key issue being manufacturing and cost-scaling. Microfluidic devices were expensive, difficult to create, and had to be outsourced to a manufacturer with access to expensive tools such as photo-lithography and micro-machining(10). In recent years, new protocols have been developed in part with an emerging technology, bioprinting, which have greatly reduce time, effort, and money spent creating the chips. These lower fabrication costs have enabled labs to quickly produce cost effective chips for prototyping. At SE3D, we have developed a protocol to allow students and researchers to rapidly bioprint a lab-on-a-chip using the r3bEL bioprinter, Pluronic F-127, and PDMS. Watch the step by step process here:
To learn more about the r3bEL bioprinter and SE3D’s Microfluidic BioKit, visit our website here.
1, 2, 3,10. Soutter, W. (2017, July 31). What is a Lab-on-a-Chip? Retrieved from https://www.azonano.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=3081
4, 5, 6. Cheriyedath, S. (2018, August 23). What is Lab-on-a-Chip? Retrieved from https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/What-is-Lab-on-a-Chip.aspx
7, 8, 9. Lab-On-A-Chip Tech Uses Smartphone to Diagnose Infectious Diseases. (2017, October 19). Retrieved from https://www.rdmag.com/article/2017/10/lab-chip-tech-uses-smartphone-diagnose-infectious-diseases