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Outside the Lab Quality assurance and quality control, Regulation and standards, Clinical care

Beyond Stone-Age Sample Prep

Miniature detection technologies have matured over the last decade thanks to significant investment from industry, funding agencies and investors. We can accurately identify target compounds using myriad technologies, including biosensors, spectrometers, PCR and sequencing. Highly abundant molecules, such as sodium and glucose, can now be monitored from a single blood drop using handheld systems, such as the i-STAT.

Unfortunately, when the target is of low abundance or contaminated with other substances, we’re still struggling. Prevention of sepsis, food poisoning and water contamination, as well as the diagnosis and monitoring of cancer, all depend on the timely detection of rare targets – pathogens and circulating tumor cells. In these cases, we still rely on a series of cumbersome processes to convert the sample we gather into suitable fractions for analysis. Sample preparation currently relies on a suite of instruments for centrifugation, re-suspension, lysing, filtering and sorting; cue extensive labeling, wet chemistry and endless pipetting – all carried out manually so that reproducibility is too often dependent on experience...

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About the Author

Rodrigo Martinez-Duarte

Rodrigo Martinez-Duarte is an Assistant Professor at the Multiscale Manufacturing Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Clemson University.

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