One of Micronit’s customers is Medimate, a company that produces and sells minilabs for healthcare purposes. Medimate turned to Micronit for a chip that measures the amount of lithium in a person’s blood. A first version of the chip was already designed by scientists of the University of Twente and the MST medical centre as a result of a research project. Medimate bv emerged as a spin-off of this project. The company’s focus was on optimisation of the chip and the development of a read-out unit. The chip design and cartridge development was assigned to Micronit’s R&D department and, together with Medimate, a method to connect the chip with the essential read-out equipment was invented.
Monitoring lithium volumes is vital for patients with manic-depressive disease. This illness, also known as bipolar disorder, causes alternating manic (hyperactive) and depressive (lethargic) episodes in patients. In order to control these episodes and reduce the mood swings, lithium is prescribed. To make sure that the right amount of medication is being administered, the lithium volume in a patient’s blood has to be monitored on a regular basis. This means frequent hospital visits, testing and waiting for test results. The point-of-care solution that Medimate provides, reduces all these efforts to a minimum. The chip allows patients to almost instantly monitor their lithium blood levels at home with just one drop of blood.
The developed chip is a microfluidic capillary electrophoresis device with integrated conductivity detection. A test consists of a series of steps that together result into a reliable measurement. The first step is placing a drop of blood on the chip. Then, the blood is transported into the microfluidic channel, where the ions in the blood are separated by an electric field. After that, a sensor detects the lithium and other substances in the blood and as a last step, the lithium concentration in the blood is calculated.
In the development process of this device, production costs were taken into high consideration. This is a very important factor in the point-of-care market, where the use of disposables is common. The chip can be mass produced at low cost. Besides that, the device ticks all the other essential boxes for point-of-care applications: simple handling, low sample volumes, fast measurement and clear readout. A single droplet of blood inserted into the cartridge will typically be analysed within a few minutes.
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