A robot arm could soon be coming to your doctor’s office to take your blood and analyze it for you. From scientists at Rutgers University, this technology could change the way doctors’ offices and other clinical spaces function as we know it.
The device is fully automated and designed to both draw blood and test it so samples don’t have to be sent away for analysis. Time saved makes room for more time spent with patients and quicker results to patients waiting for answers. The possibilities for improving clinic workflow are near endless when you think about this technology being used in ambulances, emergency rooms, clinics, and doctors’ offices.
Senior author Martin L. Yarmush calls this device the “holy grail in blood testing technology.”
"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 explained.
Experts say that diagnostic blood testing is the most commonly performed clinical procedure in the world. Blood testing is used for detecting a broad range of diseases like cancer, AIDS, diabetes, anemia, and coronary heart disease. Results from a blood test can provide physicians details on organ function, especially the kidneys, liver, thyroid, and heart. Blood test data can also identify risk factors for heart disease, assess the efficacy of medications taken, and see if the blood is clotting too much or too little.
A complete blood count (CBC) is a common blood test often done along with a routine checkup at the doctor’s office. The CBC provides counts of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and mean corpuscular volume (the average size of red blood cells).
The new automated blood draw and analysis device improves upon the speed and accuracy of blood draws, which often vary based on individual clinicians (skill) and patients (physiology). Additionally, the device eliminates the need for samples to be sent away to labs that also handle thousands of other samples.
The device is made up of three main components:
"When designing the system, our focus was on creating a modular and expandable device," explained study leader Max Balter, PhD. "With our relatively simple chip design and analysis techniques, the device can be extended to incorporate a broader panel of tests in the future."
Balter and others did a sample run with new device by conducting a white blood cell test, which can provide information about immune function. They used artificial arms with plastic tubes as blood vessels, filled with a “blood-like fluid spiked with fluorescent microbeads.” The automated device successfully drew blood and completed the analysis.
The present study was published in the journal TECHNOLOGY.