The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, with roughly 600,000 deaths attributed to the disease every year. To remedy the trend FIU researchers are turning their attention toward a particular risk factor that has no symptoms and often goes unchecked – cholesterol levels.
Most cardiovascular conditions stem from high cholesterol. For mechanical and materials engineering Ph.D. candidate Kamran Moradi, access to cholesterol testing is needed as much as it is underdeveloped.
“There are places in the U.S. where access to testing facilities is impossible,” Moradi says. “If you want to test for cholesterol you need to wait a week. What if we could squeeze the entire week’s process into 10 seconds with the same accuracy?”
That is exactly what Moradi’s Lab-On-A-Chip device aims to do. Developed in collaboration with mechanical and materials engineering professor Bilal El-Zahab, Moradi’s Lab-On-A-Chip provides a minimally invasive alternative to conventional cholesterol testing. Made with cheap materials such as glass or plastic, the chip is designed as mobile, durable and without an expiration date.
Similar microfluidic separation devices have found applications in glucose/diabetes testing, though it’s Lab-On-A-Chip’s method of analysis that is gaining national attention.
Lab-On-A-Chip is a silicon microfluidic device that uses acoustic sound waves at various frequencies for the focusing of micro-particles. The manipulation of ultrasonic frequencies allows the chip to manipulate particles, pass them through a micro-channel, and conduct a variety of analysis ranging from cell sorting and blood component separation to filtration.
With a global market in mind, Moradi hopes to improve accessibility to cholesterol testing – domestically and abroad.
“You’re in a forest, in a jungle, you pull out your chip and you’re good,” Moradi says.
The device’s appeal is also attributed to its ability to perform the analysis on fluids less than 1ml.
“Just one prick of blood placed in a meter that is [currently] being designed is all that is required,” he says for the chip to conduct a thorough analysis. “It is then profiling your cholesterol, good or bad,”
People can then contact their doctors for the next steps.
El-Zahab, who encourages development of entrepreneurial skills within his research team, credits Moradi for thinking big-picture about his device.
“This isn’t only a research idea. This is something that can become a product. And this product can have a market, and this market can actually have economic impact on our society, and health care,” El-Zahab says. ”I credit Kamran for visualizing that.”
El-Zahab also sees the potential of Lab-On-A-Chip in reducing costs to health care providers, patients and insurance companies. “Reducing healthcare costs from a test that can cost several hundred dollars, to less than $1 or $2. For a test that is as often performed like lipid profiling, that would have direct implications.”
The unique healthcare solution earned Moradi a finalist spot at the Center for Integration of Medicine & Innovation Technology (CIMIT) 5th Annual Student Technology Prize in Primary Healthcare in Boston over the summer. Ultimately, he finished top 10 in the nation and received a $10,000 award.
The $400,000 competition acknowledged research projects that improved access to medical care, supported patients with chronic disease and reduced medical error among other things.
“When we found out Kamran was placed as a finalist and won $10,000 for that award, we were thrilled – we started thinking the big picture.” El-Zahab says.
With the momentum of recent accolades at national and regional conferences, Moradi continues to work toward making Lab-On-A-Chip a viable health care solution for communities around the world.
Story originally published on FIU News: news.fiu.edu/2014/09/students-chip-aims-to-put-lab-testing-in-your-pocket/81442