Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, according tomedia New Atlas, and tests for the disease require blood pumping, which is then produced by trained medical staff. Engineers at Rice University have designed a new bandage-like micro-needle device that can dramatically improve access to this diagnostic method and detect key signs of the disease without blood drawn at all. The device, developed by Rice University, was designed to be completely painless.
The patch gently pierces the skin with a set of 16 tiny needles, but does not cause discomfort. This is because these needles are only 375 microns wide and subtly inhale dermis intersectant fluid, which surrounds all the cells in our skin and can contain certain biomarkers that can reveal the presence of disease.
“Scher (postdoctoral researcher Xue Jiang) and I have applied patches to the skin, which are completely pain-free compared to finger piercings or blood pumping,” said Peter Lillehoj, a mechanical engineer at Rice University. “It’s less painful than being stabbed. What I’m trying to say is that it feels like putting tape on the skin and tearing it off. “
In addition to the micro-needle array, the patch has a test note for analyzing liquids that contain antibodies that react when certain biomarkers are present — in which case they indicate malaria. The device is able to perform this process and provide results within 20 minutes through a red line on the exposed surface of the test strip, indicating that the results are positive or negative.
In large quantities, the cost of these patches is estimated to be about $1 per piece, and once the work is done, they can simply be torn off and thrown away. This makes them a promising solution for malaria testing in developing regions, where health care and trained professionals may not be so common. The team also said the device could be customized to search for biomarkers for other diseases, including possible COVID-19.
The study was published in the journal Microsysysmology and Nano-Engineering.