Aug 11, 2017 | By Tess

A team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has designed and built a low-cost 3D printed device that helps turn a smartphone into a portable laboratory capable of medical diagnostic tests. The device, called a spectral transmission-reflectance-intensity (TRI) Analyzer, costs only $550 to make.

The innovative device, which is encased in a compact 3D printed cradle, is capable of analyzing blood, saliva, or urine samples with the same accuracy and reliability as most lab instruments. Unlike the professional lab instruments, however, the 3D printed TRI Analyzer does not cost thousands of dollars.

The tool was developed by a team from the lab of Brian Cunningham, a professor of bioengineering and electrical & computer engineering and was recently published about in the journal Lab-on-a-Chip.

Cunningham explains, “Our TRI Analyzer is like the Swiss Army knife of biosensing. It’s capable of performing the three most common types of tests in medical diagnostics, so in practice, thousands of already-developed tests could be adapted to it.”

Among the analysis tests the 3D printed smartphone attachment is capable of completing are a test to detect pre-term birth biomarkers in pregnant women and a PKU test, which detects an enzyme in newborns that is crucial to normal development and growth.

The researchers claim the TRI Analyzer’s results for both tests were “comparable to those acquired with clinic-grade spectrometer instrumentation.”

How does the device work? Well, the TRI Analyzer basically consists of a 3D printed casing which integrates an optical fiber and a diffraction grating mechanism. When used with a smartphone, the contraption enables the phone’s camera to function as a high-performance spectrometer.

That is, the analyzer device uses the smartphone’s internal white LED flash (or, alternately, an external green laser diode) to light up a sample of blood, urine, or saliva. As the researchers explain it, the light from the sample is then “collected in an optical fiber and guided through a diffraction grating into the phone’s rear-facing internal camera.”

The low-cost testing device is also capable of reading multiple samples at once by inserting a microfluidic cartridge into an opening in the 3D printed casing.

“Our Analyzer can scan many tests in a sequence by swiping the cartridge past the readout head, in a similar manner to the way magnetic strip credit cards are swiped,” said Kenny Long, an MD/Ph.D. student who was also the lead author on the study.

Of course, the obvious benefit of being able to analyze more than one sample at a time is that it can meet time-sensitive demands for patients who may not be able to reach a clinic, hospital, or test facility quickly.

Long also added that the TRI Analyzer has the potential to be used for the ELISA test (or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), which can detect and measure various proteins and antibodies in a blood sample. The ELISA test is a common procedure for many health diagnostic tests.

If the TRI Analyzer wasn’t versatile enough, the research team says it could even be used for animal health applications, environmental monitoring, drug testing, food safety, and even manufacturing quality control.

The innovative technology is protected by patent, but is available for licensing, say the researchers.

Researchers at Duke University recently produced a similar 3D printed diagnostic device



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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