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Astrid Aksnes

Professor NTNU & Project lead “Lab-on-a-Chip”

– Biophotonic sensor platform for diagnostics, that tests for many diseases simultaneously

Doctors can make accurate diagnoses much faster if they have access to a microlaboratory in their office that can analyze samples from a patient in minutes.
 Scientists from NTNU in Trondheim and SINTEF in Oslo are developing a lab-on-a-chip, which is only a few square centimeters. This tiny device will be able to reveal a number of different diseases from the same patient sample, whether it is blood, saliva or urine.

This microlaboratory, also called lab-on-a-chip (LOC), draws the patient sample through thin channels, only a few tens of micrometers thick. The microfluidic channels deliver the samples to the sensors, which are surface functionalized for attachment of different biomarkers. These biomarkers are specific for the diseases one wishes to check. The design of the LOC sensor platform enables a single chip to analyze many substances within tens of minutes. Today, samples are usually sent to a laboratory and it takes many hours or even several days until the doctor will get an answer.

Initially, the researchers will create a prototype that measures three biomarkers used in the analysis of blood samples. These biomarkers are inflammation markers that indicate different conditions, inflammation from bacteria or viruses, potentially cancer and kidney failure. The goal is to create a lab-on-a-chip that is so cheap that it can be discarded after use, and be used both in doctors’ offices and in the Third World.

This groundbreaking project combines expertise from medicine, bioengineering, micro-/ nanofluidics (deals with the behavior and precise control of fluids) and nanophotonics (a branch of optical engineering where light interacts with nanoscale structures).

The project is managed by the Department of Electronic Systems at NTNU. Partners are the Department of Physics at NTNU, Department of Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine at NTNU, Department of Microsystems and Nanoelectronics (MiNaLab) at SINTEF Digital, and Centre of Molecular Inflammation Research (CEMIR) at NTNU/St. Olav’s Hospital.