Diagnosis On-demand: Houston Methodist Develops V-chip Medtech Device

Methodist Hospital Houston wants to make disease diagnosis as simple as a pregnancy test.

That’s the idea behind the “V-chip,” a credit card-sized medical device being developed at the hospital that is designed to allow doctors and other caregivers to immediately diagnose as many as 50 diseases with just a drop of blood or urine.

“This is the frontier” of chemistry and diagnostics, says Lidong Qin, the chip’s inventor and a principal investigator at Methodist. “V-Chip is accurate, cheap, and portable, and can do 50 different tests in one go.”

V-chip, which is short for “volumetric bar-chart chip,” is composed of two thin pieces of glass that slide together. One plate has a series of grooves cut into it. The other has wells that contain up to 50 different antibodies to specific proteins, DNA or RNA fragments, or lipids of interest, along with hydrogen peroxide, the enzyme catalase, and a dye. When a blood or urine sample is added to the plate with the grooves, the virus or other pathogen in the sample binds to the antibody for that particular disease in one of the grooves. That, in turn, activates the catalase enzyme, which splits the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. The oxygen then pushes the dye up the grooved channel. The greater the amount of the substance of interest, the farther the dye is pushed in that channel. The results can be read like a bar chart with different levels of dye for each groove.

In essence, the chip is a small, convenient version of a standard assay called ELISA (for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay).

It’s still early days for the V-chip. To further the chip’s development, Methodist, in the last two months, signed two research sponsorship agreements with a private medical device company and a health IT startup interested in commercializing the device. And, before it could get into the hands of medical professionals, the device would still need to jump … Next Page »

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