The National Institute on Drug Abuse has agreed to award $2.1 million to Lidong Qin, Ph.D., and Ping Wang, Ph.D., of the Houston Methodist Research Institute to develop a pocket-sized drug test for use in health care settings.
The three-year project aims to modify an existing device that is about as big as a business card and could produce test results in minutes, speeding the treatment of patients in emergency rooms, for example. In previous studies, the device was shown to be sensitive down to the nanogram-per-milliliter level, which is sufficient for drug testing purposes.
"Currently available drug test tools are either inaccurate or expensive," said Qin, the project's principal investigator. "If we're successful, our device will assist clinicians as they treat patients with substance use disorders. The accurate, multi-substance assay is designed to measure patient samples at the point of care, and be convenient for both patients and clinicians."
A Nature video about Qin's device can be viewed at: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v3/n12/full/ncomms2292.html
The device is called the V-chip, short for "volumetric bar-chart chip." It is composed of two thin, 3" x 2" slides of glass. In between the slides are wells for four things: (1) hydrogen peroxide, (2) up to 50 different antibodies to specific drugs or drug metabolites, (3) blood serum or urine, and (4) a dye -- any dye will do. Initially, the wells are kept separate from each other. A shift in the glass plates brings the wells into contact, creating a contiguous, zig-zagged space from one end of the V-chip to the other, mixing the four ingredients.