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‘Holy grail’ robotic device draws and tests blood

Researchers have created an automated blood drawing and testing device that provides rapid results. It could potentially improve workflow in hospitals and other health-related institutions to allow health care practitioners to spend more time treating patients.

“This device represents the holy grail in blood testing technology,” says Martin L. Yarmush, senior author of the study and chair and professor in the biomedical engineering department at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

“Integrating miniaturized robotic and microfluidic (lab-on-a-chip) systems, this technology combines the breadth and accuracy of traditional blood drawing and laboratory testing with the speed and convenience of point-of-care testing,” Yarmush explains.

blood testing device render
This fully automated device includes an image-guided robot for drawing blood from veins, a sample-handling module, and a centrifuge-based blood analyzer. (Credit: Max Balter via Rutgers)

Diagnostic blood testing is the most commonly performed clinical procedure in the world, and it influences most of the medical decisions made in hospitals and laboratories. But the success rate of manually drawing blood samples depends on clinicians’ skill and patient physiology, and nearly all test results come from centralized labs that handle large numbers of samples and use labor-intensive analytical techniques.

So, a biomedical engineering research team created a device that includes an image-guided robot for drawing blood from veins, a sample-handling module, and a centrifuge-based blood analyzer. Their device provides highly accurate results from a white blood cell test, using a blood-like fluid spiked with fluorescent microbeads. The testing used artificial arms with plastic tubes that served as blood vessels. The device could provide rapid test results at bedsides or in ambulances, emergency rooms, clinics, and doctors’ offices.

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“When designing the system, our focus was on creating a modular and expandable device,” says Max Balter, who led the study and holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering. “With our relatively simple chip design and analysis techniques, the device can be extended to incorporate a broader panel of tests in the future.”

A study describing the fully automated device appears in the journal Technology.

Source: Rutgers University

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