An artist’s rendition of microparticles flowing through a channel and passing through electric fields where they are barcode scanned. Source: Rutgers University An artist’s rendition of microparticles flowing through a channel and passing through electric fields where they are barcode scanned. Source: Rutgers University Researchers at Rutgers University have invented a new biosensor technology that could be implemented into a handheld or wearable devices that could monitor a person’s health and exposure to dangerous bacteria, viruses and pollutants.

The technology, known as a lab on a chip, involves electronically barcoding microparticles, giving them a bar code that could be used to test for health and disease indicators, bacteria and viruses, as well as air and other contaminants.

“This is really important in the context of personalized medicine or personalized health monitoring,” says Mehdi Javanmard, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers University. “Our technology enables true labs on chips. We're talking about platforms the size of a USB flash drive or something that can be integrated onto an Apple Watch, for example, or a Fitbit.”

Biomarkers have revealed over the last few decades the complex nature of the molecular mechanisms behind human disease, Rutgers says. This has accelerated the importance of testing bodily fluids for numerous biomarkers simultaneously.

“One biomarker is often insufficient to pinpoint a specific disease because of the heterogeneous nature of various types of diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and inflammatory disease,” Javanmard says. “To get an accurate diagnosis and accurate management of various health conditions, you need to be able to analyze multiple biomarkers at the same time.”

Current optical instruments use state-of-the-art technology for detecting and measuring biomarkers but are way too big to be worn as a wearable or portable device.

The Rutgers technology allows for ultra-compact instruments needed in wearable devices and marks the first time the barcoding of the particles has been fully electronic. This allows the biosensors to be shrunken to the size of a wearable band or microchip.

The technology offers a greater than 95% accuracy in identifying biomarkers and researchers are fine-tuning it to make it 100% accurate. The Rutgers team is also working on portable detection of microorganisms, including disease-causing bacteria and viruses.

“Imagine a small tool that could analyze a swab sample of what's on the doorknob of a bathroom or front door and detect influenza or a wide array of other virus particles," Javanmard says. “Imagine ordering a salad at a restaurant and testing it for E. coli or Salmonella bacteria.”

The full research can be found in the journal Lab on a Chip.

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