The researchers claim that not only does the system carry out measurements many times faster than standard techniques, it is also portable, so it can be used anywhere.
The system itself consists of two parts: a lab-on-a-chip-system and a portable detector. The chip contains tiny channels that are coated with receptors. A sample of blood or saliva is transported to the channels with the help of a fluidic system, whereupon substances from the sample can bind with receptors on the chip.
Light from a laser is then guided through the channels, and if any of the substances have bonded with the receptors in any of the channels, the phase of the laser light changes. Measuring the phase change of the light then indicates whether or not any viruses are present.
According to the researchers at Ostendum, the method is highly sensitive and can measure the binding of a single virus particle.
The only thing needed by the Ostendum detector method is a sample of saliva, blood or another body fluid from the person being tested and a specific receptor for use in the chip.
In the case of a virus, a specific antibody can serve as a receptor – as such, however, an antibody to a virus must be available in order for the system to detect whether an individual has contracted that virus.
This week, the company completed the first prototype of the device, and it is presently working on two others, which will undergo practical tests as part of a collaboration between the Laboratorium Microbiologie Twente Achterhoek and the Zwanenberg Food Group.
Ostendum will then make further improvements to the design of the system on the basis of the test results, and expects to have the first product ready for introduction in late 2010.