Medical providers could soon be able to diagnose diabetes quickly and inexpensively with a lab-on-chip device that measures glucose levels from a small drop of sweat. A team of researchers at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Zhejiang University in China have made major progress toward the goal of this device by integrating microfluidic chips with fiber optic biosensors. One of the researchers, Dr. A. Ping Zhang said:
Today, photonic approaches are recognized as the most promising techniques for ultrasensitive sensing. In particular, the synergistic integration of photonic sensing and microfluidics led to the state-of-the-art technology known as ‘optofluidics’ for biological and chemical analysis.
Currently, glucose levels can measured by electrochemical biosensors that are integrated into microfluidic chips for a portable, inexpensive diagnostic tool. Unfortunately, those sensors are susceptible to electroactive interference. Fiber optic sensors, on the other hand, are a better option because they are immune to electromagnetic interference. So, the researchers combined a fiber optic biosensor with a microfluidic chip to get the best of both worlds. The result is an interference-free device with ultrasensitive detection of glucose levels.
In the future, Zhang and his colleagues hope to develop multifunctional “lab-on-a-chip” devices by integrating the fiber optic technology with onto a small chip. “Such a technology will enable a broad range of research and development in biomedical diagnostics, environmental monitoring and even aid drug discovery,” he noted. The fiber optic biosensor is described in a paper that published the journal Biomedical Optics Express.