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Digital Microfluidics Sample Analyzer
Combined innovations enable portable analyzers for medical diagnostics, bioterrorism pathogen
detection, and food supply analysis.
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
   Three innovations address the needs          The lab-on-a-chip (a.k.a., lab-on-a-          To aid in processing the microfluidic
of the medical world with regard to mi-      printed-circuit board) processes physio-      samples, an improved design for loading
crofluidic manipulation and testing of       logical samples and comprises a system        a droplet actuator includes a top substrate
physiological samples in ways that can       for automated, multi-analyte measure-         that combines glass with one or more
benefit point-of-care needs for patients     ments using sub-microliter samples of         other materials that are easier to manu-
such as premature infants, for which         human serum. The invention also re-           facture. Examples of such materials in-
drawing of blood for continuous tests        lates to a diagnostic chip and system in-     clude resins and plastics. The glass-plate
can be life-threatening in their own         cluding the chip that performs many of        portion covers the droplet operations
right, and for expedited results. A chip     the routine operations of a central lab-      area of the droplet actuator, providing a
with sample injection elements, reser-       based chemistry analyzer, integrating,        flat, smooth surface for facilitating effec-
voirs (and waste), droplet formation         for example, colorimetric assays (e.g.,       tive droplet operations. The plastic por-
structures, fluidic pathways, mixing         for proteins), chemiluminescence/fluo-        tion has one or more openings that pro-
areas, and optical detection sites, was      rescence assays (e.g., for enzymes, elec-     vide a fluid path, from an exterior well,
fabricated to test the various compo-        trolytes, and gases), and/or conducto-        into the gap of the droplet actuator. The
nents of the microfluidic platform, both     metric assays (e.g., for hematocrit on        substrates are associated with electrodes
individually and in integrated fashion.      plasma and whole blood) on a single           for conducting droplet operations such as
The droplet control system permits a         chip platform.                                droplet transport and droplet dispensing.
user to control droplet microactuator           Microfluidic control is essential for a       This work was done by Michael G. Pollack,
system functions, such as droplet opera-     successful lab-on-a-chip. This innovation     Vijay Srinivasan, Allen Eckhardt, Philip Y.
tions and detector operations. Also, the     is capable of analysis of bodily fluids       Paik, Arjun Sudarsan, Alex Shenderov, Zhis-
programming system allows a user to de-      such as blood, sweat, tears, serum,           han Hua, and Vamsee K. Pamula of Advanced
velop software routines for controlling      plasma, cerebrospinal fluid, sweat, and       Liquid Logic, Inc. for Johnson Space Center. For
droplet microactuator system functions,      urine. It can be configured as a mobile       further information, contact the JSC Innovation
such as droplet operations and detector      or handheld instrument for use at bed-        Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809.
operations.                                  side, ICU (intensive care unit), ER              In accordance with Public Law 96-517,
   A chip is incorporated into the system    (emergency room), operating rooms,            the contractor has elected to retain title to this
with a controller, a detector, input and     clinics, or in the field. Alternatively, it   invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its
output devices, and software. A novel        can be configured as a benchtop system.       commercial use should be addressed to:
filler fluid formulation is used for the     The chip can be configured to perform            Advanced Liquid Logic Inc.
transport of droplets with high protein      on-chip all-electrical micropumping;             615 Davis Drive
concentrations. Novel assemblies for de-     i.e., the chip can be configured to oper-        Suite 800
tection of photons from an on-chip           ate with no off-chip pressure sources or         P.O. Box 14025
droplet are present, as well as novel sys-   syringe pumps. Additionally, it can per-         Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
tems for conducting various assays, such     form many simultaneous, parallel opera-          Refer to MSC-24283-1/553-1/4-1, volume
as immunoassays and PCR (polymerase          tions on nanodroplets, thereby expedit-       and number of this Medical Design Briefs
chain reaction).                             ing production of results.                    issue, and the page number.

Radiation Protection Using Carbon Nanotube Derivatives
This technology can be used in clinical oncology and in nuclear disaster response.
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
  BHA and BHT are well-known food            bolyxic acid groups via acid-base associ-     tives. It works by reducing the number
preservatives that are excellent radical     ation or via covalent association.            of free radicals within or nearby a cell,
scavengers. These compounds, attached           The material can be used as a means        tissue, organ, or living organism. This
to single-walled carbon nanotubes            of radiation protection or cellular stress    reduces the risk of damage to DNA and
(SWNTs), could serve as excellent radi-      mitigation via a sequence of quenching        other cellular components that can
cal traps. The amino-BHT groups can          radical species using nano-engineered         lead to chronic and/or acute patholo-
be associated with SWNTs that have car-      scaffolds of SWNTs and their deriva-          gies, including (but not limited to) can-

NASA Tech Briefs, September 2010                                                                                                          31
cer, cardiovascular disease, immuno-             posure is generally higher than desired);         ther information, contact the JSC Innovation
suppression, and disorders of the cen-           or in any scenario where exposure to ra-          Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809.
tral nervous system. These derivatives           diation is expected or anticipated.                  In accordance with Public Law 96-517,
can show an unusually high scavenging                This invention’s ultimate use will be         the contractor has elected to retain title to this
ability, which could prove efficacious in        dependent on the utility in an overall bi-        invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its
protecting living systems from radical-          ological system where many levels of tox-         commercial use should be addressed to:
induced decay.                                   icity have to be evaluated. This can only            The University of Texas
   This technique could be used to pro-          be assessed at a later stage. In vitro toxic-        The Office of Technology Management
tect healthy cells in a living biological sys-   ity will first be assessed, followed by in           UCT 720,
tem from the effects of radiation therapy.       vivo non-mammalian screening in zebra                Houston, TX 77030
It could also be used as a prophylactic or       fish for toxicity and therapeutic efficacy.          Phone No.: (713) 500-3369
antidote for radiation exposure due to               This work was done by Jodie L. Conyers,          E-mail:
accidental, terrorist, or wartime use of ra-     Jr., Valerie C. Moore, and S. Ward Casscells of      Refer to MSC-24565-1, volume and num-
diation-containing weapons; high-alti-           the University of Texas Health Science Center     ber of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the
tude or space travel (where radiation ex-        at Houston for Johnson Space Center. For fur-     page number.

Process to Selectively Distinguish Viable From Non-Viable
Bacterial Cells
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
   The combination of ethidium mono-                Intercalating dyes can only penetrate          amplification via post-fragmentation,
azide (EMA) and post-fragmentation, ran-         the membranes of dead cells. Once                 randomly primed technologies. This re-
domly primed DNA amplification tech-             through the membrane and actually in-             sults in the ability to carry out down-
nologies will enhance the analytical             side the cell, they intercalate DNA and,          stream nucleic acid-based analyses on vi-
capability to discern viable from non-viable     upon photolysis with visible light, pro-          able microbes to the exclusion of all
bacterial cells in spacecraft-related sam-       duce stable DNA monoadducts. Once                 non-viable cells.
ples. Intercalating agents have been widely      the DNA is crosslinked, it becomes in-               This work was done by Myron T. La Duc,
used since the inception of molecular biol-      soluble and unable to be fragmented               James N. Benardini, and Christina N. Stam
ogy to stain and visualize nucleic acids.        for post-fragmentation, randomly                  of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labo-
Only recently, intercalating agents such as      primed DNA library formation. Viable              ratory. For more information, contact iaof-
EMA have been exploited to selectively dis-      organisms’ DNA remains unaffected by     NPO-47218
tinguish viable from dead bacterial cells.       the intercalating agents, allowing for

32                                                                                                             NASA Tech Briefs, September 2010

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