A novel lab-on-a-chip for brain-biomarkers realized at NEST Lab

Pisa, March 7, 2019. A novel biomedical device has been realized and patented at NEST Laboratory (Scuola Normale Superiore and Istituto Nanoscienze of the National Research Council, Pisa, Italy). The invention is a lab-on-a-chip: it is as small as a computer chip, but it performs lab-analyses on its surface. It can detect tiny amounts of molecules, such as circulating proteins in humans that are present only in case of pathologies (biomarkers).

The researchers demonstrated its capability of detecting a biomarker related to brain pathologies as severe or mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and glioblastoma multiforme cancer (GBM). In future, this lab-on-a-chip could be used for detecting mild and severe TBI in patients before performing the computerized axial tomography (CAT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or monitoring the GBM recurrences by means of fast and cheap blood analysis. As a consequence, this device could reduce the huge direct (medical analysis) and indirect (missed diagnosis) costs related to TBI pathologies, and could be helpful for medical personnel and patients to monitor GBM recurrences.

The lab-on-a-chip is based on nano-acoustics, namely acoustics exploiting nanotechnology. Acoustic waves are generated on the chip surface which interact with the molecules and liquids that are placed on top of it. Thanks to nano-sensors and micro-transducers realized at NEST, this device can manipulate fluids and perform molecular assays. This lab-on-a-chip will be explored for other pathologies, too.

This project was born as a Ph. D. program of Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa, Italy) inside the NEST Laboratory. It has been carried out by Dr. Matteo Agostini under the supervision and guide of Dr. Marco Cecchini of Istituto Nanoscienze CNR (CNR-NANO) and the support of his research group. This device has been realized within the FAS/GLIOMICS project – Proteomics/genomics/metabolomics for the biomarkers identification and the development of an ultrasensitive sensing platform to be used with peripheral fluids for glioblastoma multiforme cancer – co-funeded under PAR FAS 2007-2013 of Regione Toscana.