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Biochip could diagnose flu strains in minutes

The H1N1 flu strain

The H1N1 flu strain // CDC photo

Scientists at Brown University have developed a smart biochip that could help public health and military officials diagnose flu strains in minutes, a process that has previously taken days, MIT Technology Review reports.

Their invention raises hopes for containing and treating viruses on the battlefield more quickly, a goal that the Pentagon’s research arm has been eyeing.

The researchers’ biochip simplifies genetic amplification, a process of making copies of a specific DNA sequence, which is needed to identify the makeup of a sample of blood or tissue. The device uses magnetic beads to isolate genetic strands that need to be replicated. Previously, specialized and temperature-controlling equipment was needed for the process.

This means that diagnosis of viruses can take place in minutes on a handheld device, far from a lab, the article says. The findings were released in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics.

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