In conjunction with Phillips Research, a team from the University of Southampton is looking to revolutionize blood analysis

Point-of-care blood cell analysis in doctor’s offices could soon be much faster and more convenient. In conjunction with Philips Research, a team of researchers at England’s University of Southampton is developing a miniaturized cell analysis device with the  goal of eventually delivering a low cost, high speed, and inexpensive system to perform CBCs (complete blood counts) in point-of-care settings.

The team recently developed a microfluidic single-cell impedance cytometer with the ability to execute a white cell differential count. A microchip within the cytometer uses microfluidics to assess various cells in the blood. The electrical properties of the blood cells are assessed while the blood actually flows through the chip. The measurements are used to determine and count the different types of cells and would allow physicians to diagnose several different types of diseases. The device can identify three types of white blood cells (T-lymphocytes, monocytes and neutrophils) quicker and more inexpensively than current systems.

“At the moment—if an individual goes to the doctor complaining of feeling unwell—a blood test will be taken which will need to be sent away to the lab while the patient awaits the results,” Professor Hywel Morgan said recently. Morgan is a member of the university’s Nano Research Group, which is part of the School of Electronics and Computer Sciences (ECS) .  “Our new prototype device may well allow point of care cell analysis which aids in the GP in diagnosing acute diseases while the patient is with the GP, so a treatment strategy may be devised immediately. Our method provides more control and accuracy than what is currently on the market for GP testing.”

Lab tests on a chip are coming soon

As yet, the team has not yet developed a chip that can perform a complete blood count (CBC). The team is hoping that their next achievement will be to include red blood cell and platelet measurement into the chip. If all goes well, they plan to set up a company to mass produce the instrument system and make it available for about $2,000, with each disposable chip costing only a few dollars a piece. The chips would be produced at the Southampton Nanofabrication Centre, which opened on September 9  and is focused on manufacturing nano- and bio-nanotechnologies that reduce cost and turnaround.

Dark Daily observes that ongoing advances in nanotechnology and microfluidics are contributing to many different efforts to create point-of-care testing devices for assays that currently must be performed in central laboratories. The blood testing chip under development at the University of Southampton is just one example. Pathologists and lab managers should expect to see a regular flow of POCT testing systems reach the clinical marketplace in coming years.

Related Information:

Download the research team’ paper describing the device in last month’s Lab on a Chip explains every thing you need to know about a Complete Blood Count

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