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While it’s early days for integrated photonics in medicine and the life sciences, its impact promises a health care revolution by bringing early diagnosis and point-of-care monitoring to the masses.

MARIE FREEBODY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, [email protected]

Imagine testing for a host of diseases and conditions in a single sample of blood, saliva, urine or even a few tear drops. Cancers, heart conditions, viruses, food allergies and sepsis are just some of the tests that could be carried out using next-generation lab-on-a-chip concepts that are being explored and patented by today’s top researchers. Such disposable chips could be loaded with the sample and then quickly analyzed using a computer, tablet or even a smartphone for fast diagnostic testing and simple disease monitoring and management. It’s not just health care worldwide that could be transformed; a host of other applications stand to benefit from such scalable photonics — from environmental monitoring and food sorting to fingerprint detection and lighting to enhance health. Compared with today’s often bulky lab equipment, which requires either the patient to visit a clinic or sending samples away for testing, integrated photonics could transform the health care system, reduce waiting times and costs as well as provide better care for patients worldwide. For those in rural or underdeveloped areas, it may bring direct access to doctors for the first time. “What is really important is that such lab-on-chip sensors have been applied for real diagnostic applications of pathologies and conditions employing only few drops of bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, urine or tears,” said Laura Lechuga, leader of the Nanobiosensors and Bioanalytical Applications Group at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), Barcelona, Spain. “This is opening the route to an instantaneous diagnostic for the identification of many diseases — such as cancer or infection — at a very early stage in a fast, simple and cost-effective way.”

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Published: November 2016
Glossary
lab-on-a-chip
A lab-on-a-chip (LOC) is a miniaturized device that integrates various laboratory functions and capabilities onto a single, compact chip. Also known as microfluidic devices, lab-on-a-chip systems are designed to perform a variety of tasks traditionally carried out in conventional laboratories, but on a much smaller scale. These devices use microfabrication techniques to create channels, chambers, and other structures that facilitate the manipulation of fluids, samples, and reactions at the...
lidar
Lidar, short for light detection and ranging, is a remote sensing technology that uses laser light to measure distances and generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape and characteristics of objects and surfaces. Lidar systems typically consist of a laser scanner, a GPS receiver, and an inertial measurement unit (IMU), all integrated into a single system. Here is how lidar works: Laser emission: A laser emits laser pulses, often in the form of rapid and repetitive laser...
FiltersLaserslensesmirrorsOpticsSensors & DetectorsBiophotonicsMarie FreebodyICN2lab-on-a-chipOCTLioniX InternationalTriPleX chipsPICphotonic integrated circuitsRaman/fluorescence spectroscopyCMOS image sensors Bimodal Waveguide interferometerlidaroptical phased arraysFeatures

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