A Laboratory in the Palm of Your Hand
Lab-on-a-chip technology could soon allow doctors and researchers to study patients and the environment using a device small enough to fit in the palm of their hands.
Using microfluidics (the manipulation of tiny amounts of fluid, usually contained in a space smaller than a millimetre), the technology would let users run multiple biomedical and chemical tests from one hand-held device.
Dr. Carolyn Ren, Canada Research Chair in Lab-on-a-Chip Technology, is working to make this technology a reality. She is leading a team with a blend of expertise in physics, biochemistry and a broad range of engineering fields undertaking research to better understand “microfluidic transport phenomena,” and the processes to which they lead. Understanding these phenomena will help researchers design and improve lab-on-a-chip tools.
Technology resulting from Ren’s research could be used in tools such as microfluidic-based devices for multidimensional protein separation and identification—techniques used to diagnose diseases based on the presence of biological markers. Ren’s lab is also developing microfluidic platforms for cell culture and living cell analysis—essential for on-the-spot diagnosis.
The lab-on-a-chip technology that Ren is working towards could revolutionize disease diagnosis and chemical detection, while helping enable drug discovery and drug delivery, and significantly reducing the costs associated with health care and environmental protection in Canada.