Lab-on-chip device for blood cell count being developed at
26 August 2009
A hand-held device using lab-on-chip technology that could enable
doctors to offer blood cell analysis in their surgeries is being
developed by academics at the University of Southampton.
A team led by Professor Hywel Morgan at the University’s Nano
Research Group within the School of Electronics and Computer Science
(ECS) in conjunction with Professor Donna Davies and Dr Judith Holloway
at the School of Medicine, has developed a microfluidic single-cell
impedance cytometer that performs a white cell differential count. The
system was developed in collaboration with Philips Research.
The device is described in a paper in Lab on a Chip this
The chip within the device uses microfluidics — a set of technologies
that control the flow of minute amounts of liquids — to measure a number
of different cells in the blood.
The microfluidic chip
According to Dr David Holmes at ECS, lead author of the paper, the
microfluidic set-up uses miniaturised electrodes inside a small channel.
The electrical properties of each blood cell are measured as the blood
flows through the device. From these measurements it is possible to
distinguish and count the different types of cell, providing information
used in the diagnosis of numerous diseases.
The system which can identify the three main types of white blood
cells: T lymphocytes, monocytes and neutrophils, is faster and cheaper
than current methods.
"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," said Professor
Morgan. "Our new prototype device may allow point-of-care cell analysis,
which aids 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 that what is currently on the
market for GP testing."
The next step for the team is to integrate the red blood cell and
platelet counting into the device. Their ultimate aim is to set up a
company to produce a handheld device which would be available for about
£1,000 and which could use disposable chips costing just a few pence
Devices such as these will be fabricated in the Southampton
Nanofabrication Centre, which opens on 9 September and will make
smaller, more powerful nano- and bio-nanotechnologies possible and save
industry time and money.
1. The paper is published in Advance Articles in Lab on a Chip
this month and can be accessed at:
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