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Portable device can sniff out anthrax in an hour, won't bring the noise

Amar Toor, @amartoo
August 2, 2011
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Got some mysterious white powder sitting on your coffee table? A new, suitcase-sized device can tell you whether you've got dandruff, or anthrax. Developed by researchers at Cornell and the University of Albany, the detector uses a microfluidic chip (pictured on the left) to collect and purify the DNA on a given sample, before conducting a series of polymerase chain reactions -- processes that can quickly identify biological materials. The machine, which has been in the works for seven years, is powerful enough to deliver test results in just one hour (requiring a sample of only 40 microscopic spores), but is slim enough to fit in an airline's overhead luggage bin. Scientists say their creation could also be catered to pick up on other pathogens, including salmonella, and may even pay dividends for crime scene investigators handling forensic evidence. No word yet on when the device could hit the market, but we won't touch an ounce of sugar until it does.

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