Science fiction fans just love the idea of having what amounts to a portable lab - like the Star Trek medical tricorder:
Be of good cheer, sf fans, because MIT boffins have been hard at work! Take a look at "Ampli blocks", a kind of modular biochemical breadboard:
(Ampli blocks from MIT)
iny 1/2-inch, low-cost “Ampli blocks” can be assembled to create diagnostic devices. The blocks, which simply consist of a tiny sheet of paper or glass fiber sandwiched between a plastic or metal block and a glass cover, snap together to form a complete diagnostic procedure. Some of the blocks contain channels for samples to flow straight through, some have turns, and some can receive a sample from a pipette, or mix multiple reagents (chemicals) together. The blocks are color-coded by function, making it easy to assemble pre-designed devices (the researchers plan to put instructions online).
Researchers at MIT’s Little Devices Lab have developed a set of modular “plug-and-play” blocks that can be put together in different ways to produce medical diagnostic devices for detecting cancer and infectious diseases such as Zika virus.
The “Ampli blocks” require little expertise to assemble, and can test blood glucose levels in diabetic patients or detect viral infection, for example. They are inexpensive (about 6 U.S. cents for four blocks) and no refrigeration is required, making them particularly important for small, low-resources laboratories in the developing world. Small labs can now create their own libraries of plug-and-play diagnostics to independently treat their own local patient populations.