University of Utah scientists say that they have created a sensitive prototype device for medical tests that is based on the same principle as a credit card-swipe machine.
The researchers say that their device could test for dozens or even hundreds of diseases simultaneously.
They say that their approach involves a card loaded with microscopic blood, saliva, or urine samples.
"Think how fast your PC reads data on a hard drive, and imagine using the same technology to monitor your health," says Marc Porter, a Utah Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) professor of chemistry, chemical engineering and bioengineering.
USTAR research scientist Michael Granger, a co-author of the research, adds: "You can envision this as a wellness check in which a patient sample - blood, urine, saliva - is spotted on a sample stick or card, scanned, and then the readout indicates your state of well-being. We have a great sensor able to look for many disease markers."
Writing about the novel approach in the journal Analytical Chemistry, the researchers say that unlike current lab tests that take hours or weeks to generate results, their device could provide results within minutes.
The prototype card-swipe device consists of a GMR "read head", and sample stick. Presently, it is about the size of a PC, but Granger says that when it is developed commercially, the GMR sensor device will look like a credit card reader.
Porter expects a more advanced version will start being used to test farm animals for diseases in about two years, and a version for human medical tests might begin clinical evaluation in five years.