A genetic testing mini-lab developed by researchers at the University of Alberta to set to begin commercial trials within a year. The Domino system provides a portable, cheap and powerful alternative to conventional laboratories that delivers a range of point-of-care diagnostic possibilities including tests for blood borne diseases such as malaria and those affecting farm animals.

At the core of the Domino system is a thumb-sized, disposable plastic chip containing 20 tiny compartments for the reaction gel used to test each bio-fluid sample. When this chip is fed into the portable lab - which contains a laser, CCD detector and heater - DNA-based diagnostic results can be obtained in one hour.

The system doesn't require highly-skilled operators and each compartment performs an independent test. It's also projected to cost US$5,000, while the disposable chip will cost only a few dollars, so the benefits are obvious for health-care in developing nations, as well as large scale testing in the livestock industry.

Developed by U of A experimental oncologist Linda Pilarski, the Domino technology is licensed to Edmonton-based Aquila Diagnostic Systems.

Aquila’s chief technology officer John Acker says previous studies show the mini lab produces results that match the accuracy of larger, centralized labs.

The livestock industry will be the company's first target market, with trials at feedlots in southern Alberta expected to begin within a year.

The University of Alberta animation below shows how Domino works.

Source: University of Alberta, Aquila Diagnostic Systems