Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Measuring Molecules with the Naked Eye

Published: Thursday, November 01, 2012
Last Updated: Thursday, November 01, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Chemists’ innovation may be a better model for disease diagnostic kits.

When someone develops liver cancer, the disease introduces a very subtle difference to their bloodstream, increasing the concentration of a particular molecule by just 10 parts per billion.

That small shift is difficult to detect without sophisticated lab equipment – but perhaps not for long. A new “lab on a chip” designed by Brigham Young University professor Adam Woolley and his students reveals the presence of ultra-low concentrations of a target molecule.

As the BYU researchers report in the journal Analytical Chemistry, their experiments detected as little as a single nanogram – one billionth of a gram – of the target molecule from a drop of liquid. And instead of sending the sample to a lab for chemical analysis, the chip allows them to measure with such precision using their own eyes.

“The nice thing about the system that we have developed is that this could be done anywhere,” Woolley said. “Somebody could put the sample in, look at it, and have the result they need.”

The trick is to line a tiny pipe with receptors that catch a specific molecule and allow others to pass by. When a drop of liquid is placed on the clear chip, capillary action draws the fluid through the channel, flowing up to one centimeter per second. As more of the target molecules are snagged by the receptors, the space constricts and eventually stops the flow.

How far the sample flows is a direct indication of the concentration of the target molecule (higher concentration = shorter distance, lower concentration = longer distance).

“The accuracy gained with this system should make it competitive with more expensive and complicated immunoassay systems,” said Chuck Henry, a chemist at Colorado State University who was not affiliated with the project.

Woolley and his students hope their prototype will work as a blueprint for making inexpensive diagnostic tests for a variety of diseases and genetic disorders.

“There are a lot of molecules associated with diseases where concentrations around a nanogram per milliliter or less in blood are the difference between a disease state versus a healthy state,” Woolley said.

Four students worked on the project, led by graduate student Debolina Chatterjee of New Delhi, India. She and fellow grad student Danielle Mansfield mentored two undergraduates on the project, Neil Anderson and Sudeep Subedi.

The experience helped Anderson gain admission into law school at Cornell, where he is studying patent law. Subedi is completing a degree in clinical laboratory science and plans to eventually return to his homeland of Nepal and help establish better medical infrastructure.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Speeding Up the Process of Making Vaccines
System uses a freeze-dry concept to develop "just-add-water" solution.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Turkeys may be Lifesavers
Antibiotic to target staph infections, strep, comes from good bacteria in turkeys.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Detecting Prostate Cancer With a Microfluidic Device
Innovative device detects prostate cancer, kidney disease on the spot.
Saturday, November 01, 2014
Scientists Find Gene that Causes Drug Resistance in Cancer
The discovery is a first step in creating new, effective therapeutic treatments for sufferers of aggressive cancers.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Detecting Cancer with the Prick of a Finger
BYU researchers create microdevice to speed up cancer detection.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
How a Genetic Locus Protects Adult Blood-Forming Stem Cells
Mammalian imprinted Gtl2 protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells' mitochondria.
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
The MaxSignal Colistin ELISA Test Kit from Bioo Scientific
Kit can help prevent the antibiotic apocalypse by keeping last resort drugs out of the food supply.
"Good" Mozzie Virus Might Hold Key to Fighting Human Disease
Australian scientists have discovered a new virus carried by one of the country’s most common pest mosquitoes.
Non-Disease Proteins Kill Brain Cells
Scientists at the forefront of cutting-edge research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown that the mere presence of protein aggregates may be as important as their form and identity in inducing cell death in brain tissue.
Closing the Loop on an HIV Escape Mechanism
Research team finds that protein motions regulate virus infectivity.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Potential Treatment for Life-Threatening Viral Infections Revealed
The findings point to new therapies for Dengue, West Nile and Ebola.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos