Patent filing describes a device that is intended to allow patients to collect their own blood specimens without the need for needles
Google, (now known as Alphabet, Inc.; NASDAQ:GOOG) recently filed an application for another patent that deals with medical laboratory test technology. This patent application is for a needle-free blood draw system that enables patients to perform diagnostic testing on themselves.
The new system is designed to replace painful finger pricks and deliver diagnostic test results digitally to providers’ electronic health record (EHR) systems. Should the technology make it through clinical trials, widespread adoption of such a device could have sweeping implications for pathologists and clinical laboratories across America.
How Google’s Wearable Blood-test Device Works
The patent was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2014 and published in 2015. It outlines plans for a small machine that transmits a pulse of gas into a cylinder, which contains a micro particle that punctures the skin. A tiny droplet of blood is then extracted into a negative pressure barrel for analysis. The resulting tidier blood collection process is represented as being less stressful and much less painful for the patient.
The device could eventually be created as a wearable item worn around a person’s wrist, similar to a smartwatch. This device is of particular interest to diabetics because it has the potential to replace current glucose testers that administer unpleasant pin pricks to the fingers.
The Daily Mail stated that, according to Google’s patent application, in addition to being less painful, there are other advantages to obtaining blood samples from the tiniest perforation of the skin. Very small hypodermic needles are sometimes unsuccessful at puncturing the skin and can be so fragile that they simply break. The use of a micro-particle propelled by gas could solve these issues.
Google Device Performs a Capillary Blood Test, Which Can Be Problematic
The patent approval process can be a lengthy, drawn-out procedure and there are no assurances that Google’s needle-free blood draw device will ever come to fruition. The device uses capillary blood and there are well-known issues with this type of specimen for a large number of lab tests. Capillary blood collected by finger stick can produce different test results when compared to results from a venous specimen for the same patient.
In order for blood droplet tests to produce the same, accurate results as venous blood, a higher quantity of capillary blood droplets are needed. (See Dark Daily, “Rice University Researchers Publish Study about Variation in Drop-to-Drop Samples of Capillary Blood Collected by Fingerprick and Used for Clinical Laboratory Testing,” November 30, 2015.)
Google has a formidable hurdle to overcome before the successful development of a needle-free way to collect blood for clinical testing purposes. Everyday use of this technology may be several years away, but its unique technology solution for collecting a specimen of capillary blood is an example of biotech research devoted to developing an alternative method to collect medical laboratory blood specimens that does not require a venipuncture or needle stick.
Google Makes Deep Investments in the Digital Healthcare Industry
The digital healthcare industry is emerging as the competitive arena of the future for technology companies. A new generation of wearable devices has been created to measure a multitude of personal health statistics, such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, sleep patterns, weight, and exercise activities.
Google is already extremely active in this industry, devoting substantial resources to develop a variety of healthcare services. They previously launched a company called Calico, short for California Life Company, to research wellness and aging-related illnesses. (See Dark Daily, “Google Takes First Steps to Create World’s Largest Human Genome Database as Part of Wider Strategy to Become a Major Player in Healthcare ‘Big Data’,” October 8, 2014.)
Google has also invested in Foundation Medicine, a company that works with the DNA of cancer patients to help isolate the origins of the disease and allow for better treatment and stronger preventative measures.
In addition, Google is working to produce two types of smart contact lenses: one to assist with glucose monitoring for diabetics and one to treat farsightedness. The non-invasive glucose monitoring lens involves a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensors embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. The lens is designed to measure tear fluid in the eyes and connects wirelessly with a mobile device to help diabetic patients manage their disease by providing a continuous measurement of the body’s glucose levels.
With technology giants such as these competing for their share of the digital healthcare market, ground-breaking discoveries are almost certainly on the horizon. As technology advances, medical breakthroughs will unquestionably surface to enhance the healthcare industry.
Further, the fact that a company with Google’s resources is investing substantial capital to simultaneously develop multiple healthcare products and information services—including medical laboratory testing products—is confirmation that healthcare will be a major business target for most major corporations in coming years.
—J. P. Schlingman