The technique relies on the SlipChip, a simple microfluidic device developed by Ismagilov. Two overlapping glass or plastic slides can be injected with a fluid sample and then rotated slightly to separate the fluid into the wells. The rotation can also bring certain wells into contact so that chemical reactions can be performed.
In two recent papers in Analytical Chemistry and the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Ismagilov and his colleagues describe the mathematics of the design and its application in testing viral load in both HIV and hepatitis C. The chips can be designed to perform multiple tests or measure multiple samples, which Ismagilov says adds to their flexibility. Currently, other devices are needed for other stages of PCR preparation and analysis, but the researchers’ ultimate goal is for one chip to handle all these steps.