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Supersmall lab-on-a-chip is superfast

Nanowire setup may aid speedy detection of health emergencies

Looking for a specific protein in a drop of blood is like trying to find a notorious white whale on the seven seas — it takes some time. But a new device quickly filters the ocean of molecules in a blood sample, capturing proteins that may warn of an impending heart attack or out-of-whack insulin levels. Besides detecting potential emergencies, such devices could minimize the fraught days a patient spends waiting for lab results, providing them in mere minutes.

Experiments showed the setup detected various levels of troponin T, a cardiac-regulating protein that can signal an impending heart attack, in less than 10 minutes, researchers from Tel Aviv University report online August 2 in Nano Letters. In the future, people at home who are having chest pains might use the technology to find out quickly whether they need to get to an emergency room, says biomedical chemist Fernando Patolsky.

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