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Amazing new method for testing blood without a needle

21 June, 2012 | News

Amazing new method for testing blood without a needleAre you among the many who get squeamish or have difficulties giving blood? You’ll be happy to know that there are groups worldwide working on devices that will make testing blood and administering medication intravenously easier and more efficient. One such noteworthy endeavor led by Dr. Dvir Yelin at the Biomedical Optics Laboratory, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, is working on the development of a non-invasive blood test that will allow medical practicians to view and analyze a patient’s blood, reliably and in real time without the use of a needle or costly blood labs.

Measuring a patient’s blood composition is the first step in making a diagnosis. Currently this is done by extracting blood with a needle. However, difficulties associated with invasive blood extraction; patients with phobias, hard to find veins, and delays in receiving results; particularly problematic for critical cases, has led to the need to advance blood testing methods.

One of the focuses of Dr. Dvir Yelin’s group is creating minimally invasive devices through advanced optics to address some of today’s clinical challenges. The device currently under development is non-invasive imaging of flowing blood cells using label-free spectrally encoded flow Cytometry (SEFC). Instead of a needle, the device uses a compact imaging probe placed on the patient’s lower lip to allow medical professionals to observe blood dynamics live, within the vein, transmitted to their personal computer using custom program (Labview, National Instruments).

On test subjects, so far researchers have achieved placing the small imaging probe stationary on the patient’s lower lip for a period of up to 30 seconds, mainly because the subject couldn’t remain still for longer periods. Researchers demonstrated that they were able to use their technique to take rapid images over a span of time and view the RBC’s and WBC’s that passed through that area, observing their composition and behavior. The device tests detected blood vessels at depths ranging from 70 μm to 200 μm under the tissue surface.

By combining the SEFC optics with simple diffused imaging using green light, the researchers were able to take advantage of the contrast between blood vessels and the surrounding tissue to locate the small target vessels. Once a vessel is identified by the green imaging channel, the blood cells flowing in it were imaged by the SEFC high numerical-aperture optics, based on the reflected light only. This resolved issues in earlier use of optics that required chemical dye in order to differentiate between tissue parts, something only applicable in research and not on actual patients. This and limited imaging speed had previously prevented researchers from getting a true look at active circulation.

There is enormous potential yet for SEFC to not only allow non-invasive, continued observation of blood dynamics to take immediate blood cell counts at a patient’s bedside, avoiding time consuming and costly lab results; as well, there are untapped applications for diagnosis and clinical research to be explored. Although much more work remains to be done before the SEFC Device would be ready for market; Yelin’s group has established that the technology is possible.

For more information, visit their website: http://yelin.bm.technion.ac.il