Biochip could allow for fast pathogen identification

Scientists are currently testing a type of biochip that could one day potentially identify different strains of influenza, HIV or tuberculosis.

Researchers at Brown University hope their work could lead to a chip that public health officials could use to track outbreaks and healthcare workers in the developing world to cheaply identify drug-resistant strains of disease, according to

In a paper published in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, the Brown team explains how the new biochip simplifies genetic amplification, a process in the middle of the steps needed to identify a sample of blood or tissue.

"This is the kind of test that could tell you you're dealing with something new and unexpected," Andrew Artenstein, a contributor to the study, a Brown professor and the director of the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Pathogens at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, said reports.

Artenstein and his team developed a means to quickly amplify RNA on a chip the size of a regular driver's license without temperature modulations or other conditions that are impossible to control outside a laboratory.

Victor Ugaz, associate professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M praised the approach to a problem he said scientists have been trying to solve for a decade or more.

"This is really a much simpler, cleaner approach that is really well-suited for portable or portable-type applications," Ugaz said, reports. "In this case, the beauty, I think, is in the simplicity, which is not trivial."