Feb 26, 2016 | By Kira
Researchers at Kansas Sate University have developed a 3D printed diagnostic device that, when paired with a smartphone app, can detect anemia within seconds. As a low-cost, point-of-care solution, this device could be extremely beneficial to individuals with limited access to healthcare, or those in developing countries, where more than half of preschool children and pregnant women are currently anemic.
Anemia, a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the organs, is extremely common, affecting roughly two billion people worldwide. Symptoms can range from general fatigue and weakness to shortness of breath and headaches. In extreme cases, it can lead to pregnancy complications or delayed growth in children. The good news is that anemia is often easily treatable, however, diagnosis via a blood test is the first and most important step.
The new biomedical diagnostic device consists of 3D printed clear plastic slides containing microfluidics. Users simply add a drop of their blood to a slide, and attach it to their smartphone. The blood is used for a color scale-based test, and within 60 seconds, the app can read and produce accurate, easy-to-understand results. Like a glucose or pregnancy test, no lab or physician is required to make the initial diagnosis, meaning the entire process can take place in the user’s home.
The 3D printed device itself was developed by Kim Plevniak, a master’s student in biological and agricultural engineering at the Kansas State University Olathe campus, and Mei He, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering. Steve Warren, associate professor in electrical and computer engineering, is also assisting in the development of the companion smartphone app that could eventually manage data from the blood sample, and even send the results to a doctor.
The researchers used a 3D Systems Projet 1200 to produce multiple prototypes from environmentally friendly materials
3D printing technology has helped the researchers ensure that production costs stay as low as possible. "Anemia is a very prevalent condition in developing countries even though it is easily treated with iron supplements or vitamins and can be prevented with a healthy diet," said Plevniak. "Often in these developing countries people will have much easier access to smartphones than they will to doctors and trained medical professionals." In addition to affecting more than half of preschool children and pregnant women in developing counties, anemia is believed to affect at least 30 percent of children and women in industrialized nations.
In order to help diagnose and cure this condition, Plevniak and He have spent nearly a year designing an inexpensive 3D printed prototype. Recently, they received approval to being receiving and testing patient samples from the University of Kansas Medical Center, which will allow them to further improve and optimize their device for real-world diagnostic applications. They have also filed an invention disclosure for the proof-of-concept device with the Kansas State University Research Foundation.
Once developed, the 3D printed anemia-detecting device could be used to help diagnose and thus improve the lives of millions of people worldwide. Additional recent examples of low-cost, 3D printed biomedical devices include a 3D printed smartphone add-on that can read ELISA diagnostic tests, a 3D printed device for detecting Sickle cell disease, and a 3D printed phone case that can help diagnose cervical cancer.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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