In an office park in Woburn, MA, a volunteer presents his fingertip for a quick finger stick. A phlebotomist wicks up the small drop of blood with a specially made square of plastic, then snaps the plastic into a credit-card sized microfluidics cartridge and feeds it into a special reader. Fifteen minutes later, the device spits out the volunteer’s prostate specific antigen (PSA) level, a protein used to monitor the return of prostate cancer after treatment.
Detecting cancer: Claros Diagnostics has developed a microfluidics cartridge and reader (above) designed to detect PSA levels in prostate cancer patients in just 15 minutes.Credit: Claros Diagnostics
The rapid results are possible because of a novel microfluidics technology developed by startup Claros Diagnostics, which hopes to make quick PSA monitoring in the doctor’s office a reality. If approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the device will be one of the first examples of long-awaited microfluidics-based diagnostics tests that can be performed in the hospital or doctor’s office. While microfluidics–which allows for the manipulation of fluids on a chip at microscopic scales–has been around for a decade, the complexity and expense has kept it largely limited to research applications.