Point of care testing, or POCT, answers pressing health questions and allows clinicians and patients to get insight onsite, versus sending tests to a lab. POCT answers questions like: What’s my blood glucose level? Am I pregnant? Do I have an infectious disease?
POCT has gained traction with the medical community because of expediency, disrupting traditional testing methods by enabling easy and early access to results that may mitigate health risks and prevent hospital visits. During the pandemic, these devices became even more critical.
“Infectious diseases like the coronavirus require high-volume rapid screening to contain and treat outbreaks,” explains Elsa Wu, application engineer for 3M Taiwan. “Speed, accuracy, and availability at the point of care is critical to disease management. If a device does not present results accurately, adverse clinical outcomes may result, ranging from life threatening events to severe chronic complications.”
In the United States, the FDA has announced plans to streamline the path for COVID-19 screening tools and testing programs, making tests readily available in public spaces like schools and workplaces. As more individuals get vaccinated, POCT can also measure if the vaccine is effective and for how long.
Microfluidics – or the manipulation of fluid on a micro scale – are the secret ingredient in POCT. Microfluidic devices capture and immobilize biological samples, like blood or mucus, to get the insights patients and clinicians seek. The devices control and move fluid, typically on less than one millimeter of surface area.
“At a minimum, fluid needs to move from point A to point B,” explains Elsa. “In more complex Lab on a Chip devices, fluid may need to move from A to B via a mixing step and/or a separation step and may need to continue moving on to point C for detection.”
Microfluidic devices often work in parallel with molecular testing techniques that analyze how cells express their genes and proteins. One common testing method is enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or ELISA. A plate is coated with a viral protein like COVID-19. The device tests for a specific interaction between the viral protein and human sample. That viral protein (antigen) will trigger an immune response (antibodies) in an individual who has been infected. If the test procures antibodies, the individual has had COVID-19.
3M offers a broad portfolio of materials for microfluidic devices, all manufactured to ensure consistently reliable performance. Our scientists and business development teams will partner with device designers around the world to develop POCT devices using microfluidics technology.
When devices are manufactured, they must be made to exact specifications, or the accuracy of the finished device will be compromised. Some blood glucose test strips, for example, rely on blood flow timing to the enzyme. If the speed of reaction is inconsistent, it will affect accuracy of the reading and may result in measurement errors. Plus, the adhesives and films that help protect and assemble the device may be subject to environmental factors like temperature and shelf life, which in turn impact efficacy of the device.
Microfluidics require mastery of several not-so-simple technologies: fluid management, material properties, precision fabrication, electronic, sensing, and chemical know how. 3M uses a variety of solutions, from films and adhesives to biomaterials and analytical science, to help bring these devices to life. When confronted with a challenge, 3M scientists call on each other.
“I have knowledge in a diverse subset of technology elements, such as adhesives, biomaterials and films,” Elsa observes. “However, there may be questions outside my area of expertise. At 3M, we leverage the capabilities across the corporation to solve customer problems and aid in the development of novel diagnostic devices.”
As POCT advances and evolves in post-pandemic life, 3M scientists are ready and eager to help customers solve challenges – and bring their life-saving devices to patients and clinicians around the world.
Your form was submitted successfully!
An error has occurred while submitting. Please try again later...