Medical diagnostic testing is moving from the laboratory to the field with point-of-care (POC) diagnostic testing. Health care workers are beginning to apply portable diagnostic tools using additive manufacturing processes — known as 3-D printing — and smartphone technology.

POC diagnostic testing can be done at any location to quickly detect disease, determine its severity and plan treatment options and follow-up care. Locations can include a physician’s office, the hospital, an ambulance and at home. POC diagnostic testing is fast and cost-effective for patients in both developed countries and for underserved populations in remote locations and developing countries.

Advancements in nanotechnology, miniaturization, microfluidics and cloud-based technologies are combining with bio-sensing platforms and smartphone electronic readers to produce low-cost, effective testing systems for POC locations. The addition of 3-D printing enables fast, cost-effective and easy fabrication of reliable, inexpensive reader devices to link with smartphones for transmitting results.[1]

The addition of 3-D printing and smartphone technology to POC diagnostic testing will provide faster information for patient care decisions and improve how disease outbreaks can be controlled.[2] Two examples illustrate the significance of these developments.

  • Kansas State University researchers are using 3-D printers and smartphones to diagnose anemia in as little as 60 seconds.[3] A 3-D printed plastic slide uses microfluidics to analyze a drop of blood and transmit results on a color scale to a smartphone. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports anemia affects 1.62 billion people around the world, many of whom do not have access to advanced medical care.[4] This development could significantly reduce the incidence of the disease and speed treatment.
  • Duke University researchers have created the D4 assay, a fast, accurate and inexpensive diagnostic tool that emulates the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, commonly known as ELISA, which identifies specific antigens in a blood or biological sample to detect diseases and track hormone levels.[5] Traditional ELISA tests require controlled laboratory conditions and take several hours to complete. The D4 assay is a self-contained, portable test that can be used onsite to screen patients quickly for certain disease markers.[6] The results can be read with a 3-D printed smartphone attachment or on a tabletop scanner.

[1] Abstract for article,” Point-of-care testing: applications of 3D printing,” by No Nam Chan, Ming Jun Andrew Tan and Hongkai Wu, Lab on a Chip journal, July 5, 2017. Abstract and full article (available for purchase) at: http://pubs.rsc.org/is/content/articlelanding/2017/lc/c7lc00397h/unauth#!divAbstract

[2] “This lab-on-a-chip is bringing point-of-care diagnostics to smartphones,” by Danielle Kirsh, Medical Design and Outsourcing, Oct. 23, 2017. Available at: http://www.medicaldesignandoutsourcing.com/lab-chip-bringing-point-care-diagnostics-smartphones/

[3] “3D Printed, Point-of-Care Device Diagnoses Anemia in Seconds,” by Suzanne Hodsden, Med Device Online, Feb. 29, 2016. Available at: https://www.meddeviceonline.com/doc/d-printed-point-of-care-device-diagnoses-anemia-in-seconds-0001

[4] “3D Printed, Point-of-Care Device Diagnoses Anemia in Seconds,” by Suzanne Hodsden, Med Device Online, Feb. 29, 2016. Available at: https://www.meddeviceonline.com/doc/d-printed-point-of-care-device-diagnoses-anemia-in-seconds-0001

[5] “Researchers Use Inkjet 3D Printing to Create Fast, Accurate, Inexpensive Diagnostic Tool,” by Sara Saunders, 3Dprint.com blog, Aug. 21, 2017. Available at: https://3dprint.com/184918/inkjet-3d-printed-diagnostic-tool/

[6] “Researchers Use Inkjet 3D Printing to Create Fast, Accurate, Inexpensive Diagnostic Tool,” by Sara Saunders, 3Dprint.com blog, Aug. 21, 2017. Available at: https://3dprint.com/184918/inkjet-3d-printed-diagnostic-tool/

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