Rapid, reliable diagnosis thanks to micro-electronics: the bio-chip cartridge. (Photo: Fraunhofer IZM)
Small, precise and reliable; bio-chip revolutionizes diagnostic procedure
It took three and a half years to successfully complete the project work jointly carried out by the Fraunhofer-Institut für Zuverlässigkeit und Mikrointegration [Fraunhofer Institute division for reliability and micro integration] in Munich, Mikrogen GmbH, Steer Mechatronik and Scherer & Trier. Participating specialists concentrated their efforts on the development of a mobile laboratory system with which diagnosis could be performed reliably and efficiently. The first units should be delivered to doctor's offices in about two years from now. 

Many patients know the situation of waiting for laboratory analysis results. Waiting may result in the loss of patience, time and in many cases, money. In 2002, at the instigation of the Fraunhofer Institute, the Bavarian Research Foundation approved funding for a research project to develop a novel analytical device to perform blood analysis. Scherer & Trier was asked to join the effort as the competent partner capable of producing the required plastic parts with great precision and in compliance with strict project specifications. The project's successful collaboration was already reported in STart in the summer of 2003. At the end of this past year the project was finally concluded successfully.

The Assay-processor as a mobile laboratory
The novel analytic device is hardly larger than a shoebox but it is stuffed full of complex micro-technology. The centerpiece of the so-called "Assay-processor" is a bio-chip with which human antibodies can be detected. Antibodies form specifically when the body is infected by a pathogen. This unit is capable of performing up to 100 of these immunity tests simultaneously. The internal process is rather sophisticated; 100 points (dots) are located on the bio-chip, each having a size of 500 micro meters. Each of these points is treated with a different antigen inherent to a specific pathogen. Only half a milliliter of blood serum is needed in the cartridge to perform a complete test series for these antigens.
  Antibodies present in the blood which correspond to respective antigens on the chip will cause these combinations to be optically marked. This technique can very rapidly detect if the patient has come into contact with certain pathogens, thus diseases can be very reliably diagnosed without delay.

The highlight is the fluid channel system
In order for the bio-chip to provide faultless information, a great deal of development overhead went into the creation of the plastic cartridge connected to the bio-chip. The fluid channel system in the credit-card sized cartridge allows the clean, precise feeding and draining of fluids. This year a patent application was submitted for this development by Scherer & Trier. A success that the Scherer & Trier developers Volker Straßner (Project Manager), Gerhard Backert (Engineering) and Dirk Reißenweber (Product Management) have every right to be proud of. Reißenweber summarized, "This development offers us an advantage for participation in follow-up projects where we can further expand our expertise. This new knowledge offers more potential but also represents a decisive extension to our know-how that will pay off for our customers."

Another project is already in motion. Here again under the sponsorship of the Bavarian Research Foundation, Scherer & Trier will participate in a project entitled "Proteomik" which is to be a further development and enhancement of the aforementioned development. The objective of this project is to direct the collective expertise toward broad application. The scientific world has a right to be exited.


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