This interesting research is being reported by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute:
A cell phone-sized blood-count machine requiring less blood than a mosquito bite will make blood tests easier for many patients, from neonatal units to astronauts in space…
“Normal blood-count machines are large to accommodate many samples and multiple tests, so to be safe, technicians take more blood from a patient than is actually needed. Since our goal is to assess blood composition on a molecular level, we only need a tiny amount,” said Tai, professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at Caltech. “By miniaturizing the counting machine, we’re able to take a smaller sample, making the device a portable tool for space flight and in clinical settings.”
The blood-count machine will separate and identify components of blood such as red and white blood cells, lipids, proteins or oxygen. Working with IRIS International, Inc., a maker of digital diagnostic systems, Tai was able to build micro-sized valves, pumps and flow chambers that operate and fit together in the lab-on-a-chip. “Only a drop of blood is needed on the tip of the chip,” Tai said.
The blood sample is pulled into a mixing chamber where anti-coagulation chemicals are injected. Because blood has a dense population of cells, the sample then travels to a reservoir where a solution dilutes the concentration by two or three times. The sample then goes to a cell separator that divides molecules based on size.
“In this case, white blood cells will be separated from red blood cells. Because of fluid dynamics, larger molecules like white blood cells will bypass a chamber that they can’t fit into and flow into the space where they do, thus separating the blood cell types,” he said.
The cell separator puts space between molecules so that they flow easily into the counter. In large blood-count machines, cells are calculated by a technology called a Coulter counter. Tai’s lab-on-a-chip device is pioneering new technology by using two separate-yet-parallel micro-Coulter counters to calculate white blood cells and red blood cells independently.
Tai and his colleagues plan to expand the technology to assess a variety of molecules in addition to blood, add the ability to measure fluids like plasma and urine, or incorporate cell surface marker and DNA analysis.
Dr. Tai and his collaborators designed micro-sized valves, pumps and flow chambers that operate and fit together in the lab-on-a-chip. The tiny device requires less than a drop of blood in order to identify components such as red and white blood cells, lipids, proteins or oxygen molecules.
The press release…