Wireless, handheld lab analyzes blood in minutes

A handheld, smartphone-enabled blood-testing system developed by University of Rhode Island researchers could eliminate the days-long wait for test results, the researchers say.

What the university calls "lab-on-a-chip technology" needs just a drop of blood for analysis. The blood is placed on a disposable, credit card-sized plastic polymer cartridge and inserted into a hand-held biosensor, where it reacts with reagents so a sensor can detect certain disease biomarkers, the university said in an announcement.

 "The smartphone app turns the system on, monitors the assay, and sends the results securely back to your phone or to your doctor, all in about 20 minutes," lead project researcher Mohammad Faghri, the lead project researcher, said in the announcement.

The first-generation of the invention, announced last year, required a shoe box-sized biosensor and a $3,200 sensor, versus the $10 sensor used in the second-generation version.

"With our system, you can have your blood tested when you walk into the doctor's office and the results will be ready before you leave," Faghri said. "Or you can do it at home and have the results sent to your doctor in real time."

The system could even be useful in an environment such as the International Space Station, with blood-test results relayed back to Earth.

The researchers say cartridges can be engineered to detect numerous disease biomarkers, or virulent pathogens such as HIV and H1N1 swine flu. It also can test whole blood rather than blood plasma.

A third generation now in the works will "put the entire lab on paper," the university says.

Related research is taking place around the world. British researchers, for example, announced their own blood-testing minilab that can identify the presence of various diseases in minutes, according to an article in the Daily Mail.

Electrical fields divide the sample into smaller samples in the cellphone-sized handset, the article notes, allowing several blood tests to be performed at a time. The device was developed by Southampton University and the Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corp., which is adding device programmability, the researchers said.

The device also could be used for urine drug tests, according to the Daily Mail.

To learn more:
- see the university announcement
- read the Daily Mail story