It is roughly the size of a CD and can perform similar tests to a fully equipped laboratory.
The new portable mini-lab is the brainchild of researchers at the Institute for Micro- and Information Technology in the German city of Freiburg.
It produces results quicker than a traditional laboratory at a lower cost.
Physicist Daniel Mark explained how it works: “The doctor takes a sample from the patient and loads it into the device. Two hours later, the doctor receives information about which pathogens are present in the sample and can decide on a treatment.”
The way it works is simple: the patient’s DNA is extracted from the blood sample and analysed inside the mini-lab. If the genetic profile matches a known pathogen, a signal appears on the screen.
The inventors say the mini-lab could be useful in the event of an infectious disease or a pandemic outbreak – to scan passengers in airports for example.
They believe it could also be useful when it comes to testing food for safety.
“In the future, the issue of food safety is going to require increasingly complex testing. We will need to test a number of different parameters simultaneously. With this new mini-lab technology, we’ll be able to standardise this process,” said researcher Wolfgang Hauser.
But the biggest potential for the mini-lab could be in hospitals, where doctors often need to take quick decisions without having all the information they need. Data provided by the mini-lab could help speed up decision-making and save lives.
The device is undergoing final tests before it is put on the market.