The past two decades have seen a phenomenal investment in microtechnology in the biological sciences. But it is often difficult to discern what impact, if any, this diverse technology has had on the clinical laboratory. This difficulty is, in part, due to the almost transparent incorporation of microtechnology in large devices used in the clinical laboratory, or the lack of appreciation of the microtechnological features in many smaller devices.
The list of advantages of microtechnology is long and varied, but critics also point out the failure to bring about significant changes in practice and laboratory costs.
Five leading experts in the field of microtechnology drawn from academia and industry have responded to key questions about the potential scope of the technology and how it can impact the clinical laboratory. They have also provided their assessments of how point-of-care (POC)2 devices will change on account of this technology and what effect well-funded research in biowarfare may have on clinical laboratory practice.
What is the scope of microtechnology and what are its advantages?
Sabeth Verpoorte, as an academic with a well-established group working in this field, how do you respond to this question?
Sabeth Verpoorte3 : The scope of microtechnology with respect to fluid handling in clinical chemistry is extremely broad—and growing. Microchannels are uniquein that they are characterized by large surface-to-volume ratios and extremely well-defined and predictable solution flows. These systems enable exquisite control of fluid transport, and thus vastly improved (bio)chemical processing of samples. Advantages include reduced volumes, increased speed of analysis, and integration of multiple sample-handling functions into a single device for automated, hands-off operation. Microfluidics development has recently expanded into the biological realm, as this technology facilitates improved in vitro technologies for cell culture and analysis.
Allen Northrup4 : Microtechnology is a composite, single word that potentially covers a very broad field. If you take …