For the estimated 15 million babies born prematurely worldwide, life doesn’t get any easier after birth, with many facing health problems and possibly dying before the age of 5. Researchers at Brigham Young University are currently developing a "lab-on-a-chip" device designed to minimize preterm births by identifying biomarkers in mothers more susceptible to giving birth early.
The rectangluar device fits in the palm of the hand and is designed to predict, with up to 90 percent accuracy, a mother’s risk of delivering her baby early. Researchers hope this chip with be able to identify nine different biomarkers in a small sample of blood to reduce the number of preterm births.
"It's like we're shrinking a whole laboratory and fitting it into one small microchip," said BYU chemistry Ph.D. student Mukul Sonker, who is the lead author of a study recently published in Electrophoresis and funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.
Along with Adam Woolley, BYU chemistry professor and study co-author, Sonker and a team of post-docs created the chip and the system capable of preconcentrating and separating biomarkers. The chip could be a cost-effective, fast and portable way to test mothers, and researchers hope it will become an automated task among healthcare organizations.