MIRACLE annual conference update    

Labman hosted the annual Miracle conference last month. Labman has been an active partner in the European Consortium of Miracle for the last 3 years. During the conference, Labman had the opportunity to portray its multi talented engineering capabilities demonstrating a prototype DNA amplification and detection system to the European board of reviewers.

The current Miracle system comprises of three modules.

1)  Thermal Cycler

This is a prototype module used to perform polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on a DNA sample inside a disposable micro fluidic chip. The core function of this module is to set up and hold any temperature within the range of 10°C to 120°C with a temperature accuracy of 1°C. This functionality is achieved using a peltier Thermo-Electric Controller (TEC). The TEC is controlled by a Labman developed software algorithm which uses the principle of PID control to heat or cool micro litres of fluid within a PCR chamber in the fluidic chip. Precise temperature accuracy is maintained using a PID controller which adjusts a PWM signal controlling the TEC.

Labman software allows a user to set up temperature profiles which can individually specify a temperature and time duration for each specific part of the PCR cycle. This gives the module a reconfigurability making it applicable for any of the multitude of PCR cycling profiles developed. The software also plots the temperature data in real time providing the user a feedback of the currently active temperature profile and performance characteristics of the thermal cycling process.

2) DNA Detection

The second module of the Miracle system is a DNA detection potentiostat. 64 individual gold electrode chips are fabricated and functionalised with complimentary bio-marker DNA at different concentration levels by Rovira i Virgili University in Spain. A Labman developed potentiostat measures electron flow through each of these individual electrodes in parallel (current levels on each electrode is of the order of nano Amperes). The parallel current measurement technique developed and implemented in this module makes it a very fast potentiostat compared to its commercial counterparts. Current measurement data from each of the electrodes is presented to the user in tabular and graph formats.

Plans are under-way to expand this system to 256 electrodes with simultaneous parallel current measurement and cyclic voltammetry capabilities.

3) DNA Fluidic control

This is the third module comprising of control electronics, valves and syringes needed to control the flow of micro litres of fluid inside the micro-fluidic chip. Fibre optic light sensor and pressure sensors are used to precisely locate the liquid inside the chip providing automatic control of syringe drives to perform the required flow. This module will be sent to KTH in Sweden shortly for further testing.

From the feedback obtained in the annual review meeting, Labman is headed towards the integration of all modules into a single product which can detect presence of Circulating Tumour Cells (CTCs) in a sample of blood.

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