A European collaboration which is being led by a researcher at DCU will revolutionize the way blood tests, such as cholesterol, are performed. Dr. Tony Killard at the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute is developing a cholesterol test using the emerging technology of printed electronics.
The BDI is funded by Science Foundation Ireland through their CSET programme. “Printed electronics will completely change the way we use technology” says Dr. Killard. Also called flexible or plastic electronics, it is already creeping into everyday life. “The latest flat panel televisions are now manufactured using printed conducting plastics which are gradually replacing costly silicon electronics in many applications”. His team at the BDI have been developing printed biosensors and diagnostics for some years and see the potential of this technology to change the way blood tests are performed. “If you think of someone who currently does a blood test, they need a little sensor strip and a meter to read the measurement. Now, all this will be combined onto a single piece of plastic.”
Dr. Killard is coordinating the collaboration with Irish and other European experts to combine their printed cholesterol sensor with printed batteries and printed digital displays. The device will also be able to talk to a mobile phone to communicate the result to a doctor. These devices have significant potential for people who live in isolated areas, or who do not have easy access to health care, particularly in the developing world. “These strips don’t need their batteries to be changed or their meters serviced. You simply use the strip, get your result and dispose, or recycle”. He also says that because these can be printed in extremely large volumes, the cost will be low.
The research is being funded for three years under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme at a value of €2.95 M, of which €1M is going to DCU and its Irish industrial partner Ntera, who develop the printed displays. “This project will make Ireland a serious player in the emerging printed electronics industry which is estimated by some to be worth €300 billion globally by 2030”, he said.