Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed a lab-on-a-disk platform that they believe will be faster, less expensive and more versatile than similar medical diagnostic tools.
Lab officials are seeking industry partners to license and commercialize the SpinDx technology, which can determine a patient's white blood cell count, analyze important protein markers, and process up to 64 assays from a single sample, all in a matter of minutes.
"In a doctor's office, time is money," said Anup Singh, manager of Sandia's biotechnology and bioengineering department. "Patients have become accustomed to an initial visit, some tests, samples that are sent off to a far-away lab, a wait of a week or more for results, more tests and charges every step of the way. With SpinDx, you can see results before you even leave the office."
(Visit www.youtube.com/SandiaLabs to view HD video footage of the "SpinDx" medical diagnostic tool)
The technology advances in SpinDx have profound implications for patient care. Heart attacks, strokes, infections, certain cancers and other afflictions could be detected days or weeks sooner than they are today, with no new burdens placed on patients or their doctors, Singh said.
The SpinDx platform has several advantages:
- Small sample size: Patients merely have to provide a pin-prick sample of blood.
- Ease of use: The device uses a spinning disk, much like a CD player, to manipulate a sample. The disks contain commercially available reagents and antibodies specific to each protein marker.
- Custom applications: Singh envisions a "plug and play" approach whereby the physician chooses among a "cardiac disk," "immune disk" and similar options.
- Inexpensive technology: The disks - the crux of the technology - cost pennies to manufacture.
- Quick response time: Results can be delivered to the physician's computer in 15 minutes.
"We envision medical personnel using SpinDx routinely," said Greg Sommer, the Sandia researcher who spearheaded development of the project. "Instead of standard blood panels and costly lab tests, a SpinDx disk would be processed right in the office while the medical office staff is gathering routine data like temperature and blood pressure."
The platform also has homeland security and food processing applications.
Singh recently led a National Institutes of Health grant (grant # 1U01AI075441) to adapt the lab-on-a-disk platform for toxin diagnostics.
The device could be the most accurate method available to detect the botulinum toxin, said Sommer. Caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, the botulinum toxin is one of the most toxic substances known-a miniscule quantity can deliver a lethal dose. But despite scientific advances, laboratory mice remain the only reliable way to test for botulism.
"The mouse bioassay is primitive, but remains the gold standard due to its sensitivity," Sommer said. "Our SpinDx botulinum assay vastly outperformed the mouse bioassay in head-to-head tests, and requires absolutely no animal testing. Plus there are a lot of cost and speed advantages."