Inkjet printer used to diagnose diabetes
September 16, 2014
A team of researchers created a diabetes testing system using an inkjet printer.
The Conversation reported on Tsinghua University’s Yifei Zhang and colleagues, who published results from an experiment in the Chemical Communications journal regarding their work on turning an inkjet printer “into a chemistry lab and us[ing] it to diagnose diabetes”.
The site notes that inkjet printers are “an astonishing feat of precision engineering”, due to their ability to “achieve more than a million different hues and shades” from “mere nanolitres” of ink with “pinpoint accuracy”, and Yifei and his team have “exploit[ed] that precision engineering” to “screen millions of different chemical reactions”.
The team had been “trying to understand reaction pathways in living things”, with chemical processes in living organisms “controlled by a cascade of reactions” that are “mediated by […] enzymes” in a procedure similar to “workers on a production line”, in this case creating molecules. Reconstructing the process is “difficult” outside of a living cell, with a “vast number of reactions” monitored at once using 96-well plates – small containers of a “unique combination of chemicals”.
Whilst these reactions “might be set up manually” or by an “expensive robot”, the process is often slow, and so the team used a printer for its cheaper operation, replacing the inks with “solutions of enzymes” to create a device “that has the potential to dispense more than a million different reaction mixtures”. The coloured reaction products were printed directly onto paper, with higher-intensity colours showing “which reaction mixtures worked best”.
As potential applications “extend beyond curiosity-driven research”, the team loaded the printer’s cartridges with enzymes that could “indicate the presence of glucose in a sample”, with glucose in urine “an indication of diabetes”, with the site predicting a future “where a trip to the doctors results in a printout of, quite literally, your urine and some enzymes alongside, after 30 seconds or so, a diagnosis and the prescription”.
Researchers have previously used inkjet printers to print living cells, as well as eye cells, and recently computer memory was printed onto paper through an inkjet printer.
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Tags : Inkjet Printing Technology