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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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  • what happens when the chip identifies humanity as a virus?

    • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

      what happens when the chip identifies humanity as a virus?

      Well, if you're keeping up on the news via Slashdot you'll find out about the destruction of mankind sometime around three months after the fact [].

      Ah Slashdot, one of the few places where the phrase "new news" isn't redundant and "old news" isn't clichéd.

    • Comparisons between humanity and viruses might be fun in the Matrix and the like, but it is a really bad analogies. We're quite standard as mammals go. Agent Smith says in the Matrix:

      "I'd like to share a revelation that I've had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you aren't actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we... are the cure."

      But this is ridiculous. Lot's of species do exactly this. It is quite difficult for species of any sort not to keep expanding until all resources are consumed, since each individual has an evolutionary incentive to do so. In fact, viruses and many other parasitical organisms are in some respects more restrained in some ways co

  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Monday February 08, 2010 @07:13PM (#31066824) Journal

    I read the whole summary twice thinking this had to do with computer viruses.

    They even mention words like "Medicine" and "Proteins".

    Oracle> INSERT "Monkeedude1212" INTO dual

    AKA the Dummy table

  • 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!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by aicrules ( 819392 )
      It is also abnormal for virii to deliver their payload before the silky smooth target cells are ready.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by zippthorne ( 748122 )

      My wife keeps telling me that size doesn't matter

      Who is she trying to convince?

  • 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?

  • by nicknamenotavailable ( 1730990 ) on Monday February 08, 2010 @07:22PM (#31066926)

    That way you wouldn't need to worry about vir...



  • 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.
    • Re:Fascinating (Score:5, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Monday February 08, 2010 @07:32PM (#31067032) Homepage Journal

      None of these things were invented by Star Trek. Maybe they were, as you say "shown there" but these ideas have been common in SF since at least the 1940s and quite likely a lot longer.

    • by vvaduva ( 859950 )

      What is more amazing is that the technology was in fact invented at a Mormon school, and as everyone knows, Battlestar Galactica is the obligatory connection.

      So this story is really not about virus detection, but over whether or not Star Trek is really stealing technology from Battlestar Galactica!!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Grishnakh ( 216268 )

        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 PPH ( 736903 )
      It certainly is nothing to sneeze at.
  • Does this come with a free set of the magic underwear, or does that have to be bought separately?

    • Does this come with a free set of the magic underwear, or does that have to be bought separately?

      Since when is this funny? Religious bigotry isn't any less so because it's Slashdot.

  • Okay guys... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Monday February 08, 2010 @07:39PM (#31067100)

    Looks like we have a namespace collision here.

    I propose the following solution: All references to 'virus' should now point to one of the following (as appropriate).


    That'll solve a lot of confusion (and render almost every single "Funny"-modded post in this thread irrelevant)


    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by NatasRevol ( 731260 )

      Nah, computer viruses should just be called virii. It's a differentiation AND it'll annoy all the grammEr nazis. It's double plus good!

  • based on this neat interactive flash demonstration comparing the sizes of coffee beans, bacterium, viruses and atoms: []
  • 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.

    • 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?
  • Ok, so I read the article--unsurprisingly it was light on the details. The sieve idea is good, but a few questions come to mind,

    1) How are you going to do the actual virus identification? Most of the current techniques require an amplification step because you need enough signal to measure. It is great to be able to isolate small amounts, but not if you can't do anything with it. Morphological identification is one way to go, but you can only get species information that way (sometimes). You can't get strai

  • And i thought MD5 had collision problems!

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...