Scientists Develop New Device To Streamline Blood Analysis

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UC Berkeley researchers develop a Self-powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System that helps diagnose diseases within minutes.

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Scientists Develop New Blood Analysis Device
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Hoping to simplify and improve disease diagnosis around the world, UC Berkeley and international researchers have developed a compact device that speeds up and consolidates the blood analysis process.

The Self-powered Integrated Microfluidic Blood Analysis System, developed by a research team led by UC Berkeley bioengineering professor Luke Lee, both reduces chances of sample contamination and human handling errors, as the sample does not need to be sent to a lab. Only five microliters of blood from a finger prick are needed for analysis, according to a study published in the March 7 issue of the journal Lab on a Chip.

In a microfluidic system, the time it takes to separate blood cells from plasma can be reduced from hours to just minutes. While analysis often uses a centrifuge to separate the blood, SIMBAS uses trenches that collect the blood cells while letting the plasma flow through.

"(Microfluidics) takes processes which typically require expensive equipment ... and convert them into processes that can be done with very little equipment, minimal training and very rapidly," UC Berkeley graduate student Ben Ross, who co-authored the study, said in an e-mail.

Researchers have been developing microfluidic chips for two decades and past models have required an external power source. But the only external device needed for SIMBAS is an optical detection system that analyzes the results, Ross said in the e-mail.

The chip could diagnose a wide range of diseases, including tuberculosis and HIV infection, and be used in developing countries that often do not have enough infrastructure or resources to properly diagnose diseases.

"Sometimes they are not applying the right medication for the right condition - you get a lot of drug resistance," said Ivan Dimov, a UC Berkeley postdoctoral researcher in the bioengineering department and lead co-author of the study.

Ross said the team has established a prototype through the study, but added that researchers are continuing to develop the technology that will be needed for actual disease diagnosis.

"It's only the beginning of the whole journey," Dimov said.

Contact Emma Dries at [email protected]

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