This new chip can instantly check for kidney disease

A new device developed by a team at Brigham Young University can instantly tell whether someone has kidney disease or not.

The scientists are calling it a ‘lab on a chip’ but it seems more like a teeny medical pinball machine. It has a built-in tube made up of DNA sequences. When a patient’s sample is added to the chip, it runs down the tube (including round its corners) if they’re healthy, but if they have a problem, the DNA will stick to the disease markers, stopping the flow. (You can/should see it in action on YouTube.)

In their paper for the journal Analytical Methods, chemistry professor Adam Woolley and his graduate students Debolina Chatterjee (pictured) and Danielle Mansfield say that they’ve successfully used the tool to detect kidney disease and prostate cancer. It could be particularly useful in the latter case, as current blood tests only show whether the prostate is enlarged, not why that is. And there’s no reason it couldn’t be used for other diseases, too: the test can be adapted to for any condition, as long as the disease markers are known.

So far, the Brigham Young team has only conducted experiments using synthetic urine samples (who knew that was a thing?) but now want to progress to human trials, as well as making the device more sensitive so it can detect disease as early as possible.

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Diane Shipley