In just a few years, it may very well be possible for a doctor to detect any number of potentially serious ailments with just a single drop of a patient's blood. A team of researchers from the University of Minnesota has developed a handheld device that will do just that.
The device, called z-Lab, won a $120,000 prize this week from the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE, a global competition for health care-sensing technology, according to a University of Minnesota news release.
The z-Lab device is designed to detect ailments such as heart disease, cancer, HIV and other infections by sensing biomarkers, usually proteins, in the fluid samples. The device contains tiny biochips that the engineering team, known as the Golden Gopher Magnetic Biosensing Team, developed.
A drop of fluid such as blood or urine is placed on the biochip and the results are displayed within 15 minutes on a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.
Patients don't usually get screened for serious ailments until they see symptoms, and sometimes an illness isn't detected until it's well developed and more difficult to treat. The z-Lab is meant to identify those diseases much earlier, when the treatment would be less expensive and more likely to be successful, said the researchers.
“Nowadays people just try to fix the disease at a very late stage,” Jian-Ping Wang, the leader of the research team, said, according to the Minnesota Daily. “We shouldn’t treat the patient too late; we should find things early.”
Since the device is portable, the research team believes it could also be used in developing countries that don't have appropriate medical facilities and equipment.
The z-Lab is being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration for approval, and it'll likely take another couple of years before it's available for general use, WCCO notes.
The research team will use the prize money to develop the next version of z-Lab, according to the Daily.
This video from the research team has more about z-Lab.
You can learn more about XPRIZE here.