Researchers take inspiration from an insect pest.

Researchers take inspiration from an insect pest.

The blood-sucking activities of mosquitoes are said to be the inspiration behind a new microfluidic blood-testing device developed by scientists at Cranfield University, UK, and Pelikan Technologies in the US.

The device, dubbed the ’Pelikan Sun’ was officially launched at the recent Eighth World Congress on Biosensors in Spain, although Professor Tony Turner of Cranfield University gave a sneak preview to delegates at a recent RSC workshop early in May.

’There is a need to take smaller and smaller samples, to be able to measure in these samples and to be able to obtain them in a painless, trauma-free fashion’, Turner told Chemistry World. ’A patient with diabetes may have to take 6-10 blood samples per day, which can become unpleasant and painful.’

Turner’s device uses a very small needle, positioned by a uniform magnetic field, to extract just 400 nL of blood. The needle performs a preliminary ’bounce’ off the skin to predict the force needed to puncture to a precise depth. Once a sample has been taken it is carried through the sensor’s microfluidic channels to an electrochemical biosensor, where the level of glucose is determined. All this takes around ten seconds. The inventers claim the device is self contained, clean and easy to use.

Applications of the technology are not limited to glucose testing, however. The device could be useful in any area where a blood test is required. Currently, blood samples in hospitals must be taken by a trained phlebotomist; road-side tests for drugs and alcohol are impractical using conventional syringes.

The automated, pain-free technology used in the Pelikan Sun could see blood analysis becoming a routine test, say its developers. ’This way of obtaining a blood sample is virtually unnoticeable. A sample could be taken alongside a fingerprint,’ explained Turner.

’It is as cunning as a mosquito in terms of its ability to pinch a sample of your blood, which we can then do multiple analysis on.’

Ian Farrell