Inkjet-Printed Tool Enables Sensitive Diagnostic Testing in Point-of-Care Settings

Duke University researchers have created a portable diagnostic tool that can detect telltale markers of disease as accurately as the most sensitive tests on the market, while cutting the wait time for results from hours or even days to 15 minutes, the university announced.
Created by inkjet-printing an array of antibodies onto a glass slide with a nonstick polymer coating, the diagnostic tool, called the D4 assay, is a self-contained test that can detect low levels of antigens, the protein markers of a disease, from a single drop of blood, according to the article.

By creating a sensitive, easy-to-use “lab on a chip,” the researchers plan to bring rapid diagnostic testing to areas that lack access to standard lab-based diagnostic technologies.  

Beyond detecting diseases, healthcare workers use diagnostic tools to assess the severity of an illness, plan an effective treatment strategy, and track an individual's response to treatment. While some tests, like the lateral flow test, are fast, portable and easy to use, they aren't usually sensitive enough to provide information beyond the presence or absence of a particular biomarker, so healthcare workers often need to use quantitative methods to determine how severe an infection is.

“The real significance of the assay is the polymer brush coating,” Ashutosh Chilkoti, chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Duke and senior author on the paper said in the article. “The polymer brush allowed us to store all of the tools we need on the chip while maintaining a simple design.”

Chilkoti is a BMES member.