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ASU researchers on verge of medical breakthrough

PHOENIX — We have trillions of germs in our body.

“You have bacteria in your gut, on your skin, in your eyes,” said Arizona State University professor Mark A. Hayes. “I know it sounds gross, but a lot of these are very favorable partners in our lives.”

But some of the bacteria are bad. Hayes said his team has developed a microfluidic chip that can help doctors tell which are good and which are bad.

“Imagine a microscope slide. On that microscope slide, we’ve etched some channels with the same technology that you make computer microchips with,” he said. “We are able to take those small channels, put some fluids and some blood — and obviously bacteria and other materials in there — and isolate and concentrate the good ones from the bad ones.”

Hayes said that the chip could lead to an earlier medical diagnosis and treatment. He’s been working on this for about 20 years. The chip is about one year away from trials at several Valley hospitals.

“Once we show that we can prevent people from getting classic staph infections and prevent people from spreading infections in the hospitals by treating and identifying those diseases quickly, (the use of the microfluidic chip) will spread like wildfire (to hospitals throughout the country),” said Hayes.