Building blocks are making plug-and-play diagnostic devicesResearchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a set of modular blocks that are able to be connected in a number of configurations to create different diagnostic devices. The devices are considered plug-and-play and vary in uses, including blood glucose testing and viral infection and other disease detection.
The blocks, called Ampli blocks, are being used to create device to detect cancer, Zika virus and other infectious disease. The MIT researchers say that the blocks are inexpensive and cost about 6 cents for four blocks. They do not need to be refrigerated or have special handling, which means they can be beneficial in developing countries.
The MIT-developed components have a sheet of paper or glass fiber pressed between a plastic or metal block and a glass cover. The blocks are about half and inch on each side and are able to be snapped together along each side as well. Some of the blocks may feature channels for samples to flow through, while other blocks may have turns and can get a sample from a pipette.
Ampli blocks can perform a number of biochemical functions. They can contain antibodies that can detect different molecules in blood and urine samples. The antibodies connect to nanoparticles that change color if a certain molecule is present.
The MIT researchers discovered that they can bring diagnostic tests to more people if they designed them in a kit with modular components that can be put together to create exactly what a user needs. So far, the researchers have created about 40 different building blocks that labs around the world can assemble on their own, much like when people built their own radios and electronic devices from electronic “breadboards” in the 1970s.