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Biotech Science

Virus-Detecting "Lab On a Chip" Developed At BYU 71

natharward writes "A new development in nano-level diagnostic tests has been applied as a lab on a chip that successfully screened viruses entirely by their size. The chip's traps are size-specific, which means even tiny concentrations of viruses or other particles won't escape detection. For medicine, this development is promising for future lab diagnostics that could detect viruses before symptoms kick in and damage begins, well ahead of when traditional lab tests are able to catch them. Aaron Hawkins, the BYU professor leading the work, says his team is now gearing up to make chips with multiple, progressively smaller slots, so that a single sample can be used to screen for particles of varying sizes. One could fairly simply determine which proteins or viruses are present based on which walls have particles stacked against them. After this is developed, Hawkins says, 'If we decided to make these things in high volume, I think within a year it could be ready.'"
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Virus-Detecting "Lab On a Chip" Developed At BYU

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  • This will never work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday February 08, 2010 @07:19PM (#31066902)
    My wife keeps telling me that size doesn't matter... how then can viruses be identified solely by their size? It's not how big the molecules are that are important, it's what the virus can do with them!
  • by DeadDecoy ( 877617 ) on Monday February 08, 2010 @07:20PM (#31066910)
    Probably. 'Evolution' for viruses involve swapping or mutating a few base pairs. So I imagine the overall size/structure won't change much. I'd say the tricky part is not detecting a virus after it's mutated but in discerning a virus from molecules of a similar size and polarity.
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Monday February 08, 2010 @07:21PM (#31066920) Homepage Journal

    How about an implant which selectively traps virus particles, incinerates them and releases their component molecules?

  • Fascinating (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anarchy245 ( 1729442 ) on Monday February 08, 2010 @07:24PM (#31066942)
    It is amazing how technologies shown in Star Trek 45-15 years ago (esp TNG, and Voyager if I daresay) have brought to life by scientists who were inspired by its intellectual dialogue and its incredible technology. Many of the things Star Trek teleporters and replicators, phasers and tricorders, and pads, we marvel at and sometimes wonder how they ever possibly could work, a seemingly impossible feat of mankind's ingenuity. And yet, over the years we have seen so many of them come to life; the Kindle and the iPAD awe me every time I see them. Consider also, MRI imaging. The ability to bring a momentarily-dead person back to life. Transplants of major organs and body parts. And now, possibly, the ability to measure the some of the most minute details of a human that we could possibly conceive. Is this another incredible step forward for mankind and his unrelenting technological, intellectual aspirations? I can't wait to see.
  • what about cinnamon (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 08, 2010 @07:48PM (#31067158)

    the first thing i thought when i read the article is what virus various common powdery substances would match with. flour, sugar, cinnamon, pepper, powdered dry wall, chalk dust, cokeane, nutmeg, etc.

  • Re:Fascinating (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday February 08, 2010 @08:06PM (#31067288)

    The medical technology shown on BSG was really rather primitive, compared to what you'd expect for a civilization that's had interstellar spaceflight for 2000 years and also had FTL drive and artificial gravity. Their sickbay didn't look much more advanced than what we currently have; I believe they even had what appeared to be a simple MRI machine, which the Dr. used to examine Baltar's head.

  • by Michael G. Kaplan ( 1517611 ) on Monday February 08, 2010 @10:01PM (#31068018)

    DNA microarrays (also know as DNA chips) can already identify every virus ever discovered, and it can even identify undiscovered viruses by recognizing genetic sequences that are highly conserved among viruses. This type of chip first proved its worth in 2003 when it was used to identify SARS. The New York Times interviewed the inventor Joseph DeRisi about it []:

    We had just finished building the full version of our ViroChip, when we read about SARS in the newspapers. We literarily begged the C.D.C. to send us samples of the virus. Once we had it, we immediately put it onto a chip. In less than 24 hours we confirmed that this was a novel coronavirus. We confirmed the ViroChip’s finding by subsequently sequencing this virus’s genome. This had never in history happened before.

    It is not yet evident what, if any, advantage this other chip that hopes to identify viruses by their size will have.

  • Re:Magic Underwear (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 08, 2010 @11:20PM (#31068396)

    Yea, the reactor does exist, but it was shut down decades ago. It was used for nuclear decay/isotope sorts of experiments. It was never even close to having a critical mass.

  • it's about money... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tempest69 ( 572798 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2010 @02:40AM (#31069328) Journal
    Microarrays are expensive. The technology requires quite a few steps, so affymetrix chips are amazingly cheap all things considered.
    This technology is a glass sieve.. modern technology can do this cheaply at scale.
    The awesome factor is that a raman spectrometer could probably be used to nail down some of the ambiguities for similar sized proteins. As a thin glass layer will be transparent, and the samples are in predefined locations. Since youve got to optically scan the sample anyway, why not get a raman read in the process.
    And the data analysis is much more straightforward.. with a genechip, you look for a specific pattern, which may be weird if you have viruses in a sample. Where size sorting gets single on-off data points which indicate a virus of size-x which will correspond to one (possibly more) viruses.. it narrows the search pretty fast if you have yes-no answers. Plus you can do a targeted microarray when you have a narrow search field. But most of the time - sorting cold from flu from ebola and hiv is enough.
    I kinda suspect that this might be pretty quick to run, as the virus only needs to move a minute (.005-.5mm-ish id supose) amount, and an ultracentrifuge can make short work of sorting much larger samples that need to separate proteins by a few millimeters. But hey, what do I know?

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