Researchers from the engineering team at Yale University in the US have collaborated with UK-based biotech firm QuantuMDx Group to develop a handheld device for the quick diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB).
Led by Electrical Engineering professor Mark Reed, the team created a method that rapidly differentiates TB cells from other cells in a sample.
The device is claimed to allow easy treatment of the condition by identifying the TB cells even before they become infectious.
It leverages a phenomenon called dielectrophoresis (DEP) that uses an attracting or repelling force to separate the cells in the absence of a charge.
Upon flowing through a chip present on the device, the sample with the TB cells receives a voltage to isolate the cells, which are then trapped using frequency-dependent phenomena.
QuantuMDx has already developed multiple prototypes that are currently being evaluated to obtain evidence for supporting the commercialisation of the device.
Once fully operational, the device is expected to be able to process a sputum sample and identify even a small number of TB cells.
The team is currently working on refining the technology to ensure accuracy and intend to make the device portable to facilitate its use even in resource-poor areas.
Reed said: “Here, if a person gets tuberculosis, they can be treated in a hospital pretty quickly.
“That’s not always an option in other areas of the world.
“This device would literally be cellphone-sized and you can put a sample in there and it would then internally do the separation and then the count.
“Here, we can have a portable unit that you can take to a village and be able to test everybody and catch it early on before it starts to infect a person and spread.”