Imagine, if you will, a world where you prick your finger, place a droplet of your blood on a computer chip and after a few minutes can know whether that lingering cough is a symptom of a more pressing problem. Not too long ago you would have labeled me a madman, but with the advent of SIMBAS, that dream (I use the term loosely – JW) could very well become a reality.
SIMBAS, or “Self-powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System,” works by taking a single drop of your blood and separating the plasma from the remaining cells. The genius part of it is that the chip requires absolutely no electricity to process the blood and separate the plasma. All that you need is gravity to feed the fluid through the tiny filters — last I heard, “gravity” is something we have in spades. According to UC-Berkeley’s Luke Lee, this technology could be used in developing countries to help identify illnesses:
This is a very important development for global healthcare diagnostics. Field workers would be able to use this device to detect diseases such as HIV or tuberculosis in a matter of minutes. The fact that we reduced the complexity of the biochip and used plastic components makes it much easier to manufacture in high volume at low cost. Our goal is to address global health care needs with diagnostic devices that are functional, cheap and truly portable.
The thing that gets me is the speed of this: ten minutes. You could have results in as quick as ten minutes. Not only will this help us treat those inflicted with crippling illnesses in developing nations, but hypochondriacs will probably die from blood loss inside of a week!