Non-invasive testing is a growing trend in medical device design and development. A new technique that uses sound to detect the presence of malaria has been developed by Drs. Dmitri Lapotko and Ekaterina Lukianova-Hleb and a team of  researchers at Rice University

What the researchers at Rice have been able to do is to use a safe, low-power laser pulse that creates vapor nanobubbles inside malaria-infected cells. When the bubbles burst they produce a unique acoustic signature that can be detected by an ultrasound transducer. The bursts can also be detected optically, but light does not propagate as well in tissue as do acoustic waves. By using sound detection, bulk blood and tissue can be tested.

The laser-induced nanobubbles form only around the parasites in infected blood cells. Healthy cells are not affected. The Nanobubble Lab  at Rice is also investigating a similar technique for delivering chemotherapy drugs directly to targeted cancer cells.

The malaria test is non-invasive – requiring no blood draw – can be done in seconds, can be done by non-medical personnel, is extremely accurate and sensitive and is estimated to cost only 50 cents.

This is an exciting development that should provide impetus to the commercialization of medical devices that can test for disease non-invasively.