In 2016, Penn Engineers published a paper introducing a hand-held device for detecting Zika virus. Using a Thermos, a microfluidics chip and a smartphone, the “smart-connected cup” can screen saliva, urine, or blood samples for signature genetic material of the Zika virus. The device streamlines and condenses processes that health providers usually carry out in a laboratory, providing a way to bring Zika testing to sites where clinical laboratories aren’t present but diagnostics are needed.
Since their 2016 paper, the researchers have been working to completely automate the device, so that anyone, including those without medical or scientific training, can use it. By also expanding the roster of diseases the cup can test for, they hope to make the device a resource for people with a variety of medical needs. Automating meticulous, burdensome steps could help put these molecular tests in the hands of patients in resource-limited areas, and clarify causes of non-specific symptoms without specialized equipment or a medical facility. The research team introduced some of their recent developments in a paper published in Analytical Chemistry.
“The idea is that the smart-connected cup will be useful for people who are not trained,” says Haim Bau, professor in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics. “We would like to make devices available for people who suffer from chronic diseases to use at home, for example, so they can do their own testing. We would also like to automate the device so that we don’t give them any opportunities to make mistakes.”
Read more at the Penn Engineering blog.