Portable Medical Diagnostics

Diagnosing infectious diseases using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) offers a conclusive result in determining the infection, the strain or type of pathogen, and the level of infection. However, due to the high-cost instrumentation involved and the complexity in maintenance, it is rarely used in the field to make a quick turnaround diagnosis. In order to provide a higher level of accessibility than current qPCR devices, a set of 3D manufacturing methods is explored as a possible option to fabricate a low-cost and portable qPCR device. The key advantage of this approach is the ability to upload the digital format of the design files on the internet for wide distribution, so that people at any location can simply download and feed into their 3D printers for quick manufacturing. The material and design are carefully selected to minimize the number of custom parts that depend on advanced manufacturing processes which lower accessibility.

The presented 3D manufactured qPCR device is tested with 20-µL samples that contain various concentrations of lentivirus, the same type as HIV. A reverse-transcription step is a part of the device’s operation, which takes place prior to the qPCR step to reverse transcribe the target RNA from the lentivirus into complementary DNA (cDNA). This is immediately followed by qPCR which quantifies the target sequence molecules in the sample during the PCR amplification process. The entire process of thermal control and time-coordinated fluorescence reading is automated by closed-loop feedback and a microcontroller. The resulting device is portable and battery-operated, with a size of 12 × 7 × 6 cm3 and mass of only 214 g. By uploading and sharing the design files online, the presented low-cost qPCR device may provide easier access to a robust diagnosis protocol for various infectious diseases, such as HIV and malaria.