A cell phone-sized blood-count machine requiring less blood than a mosquito bite will make blood tests easier for many patients, from neonatal units to astronauts in space.
“Analysis of blood composition is how doctors test for infections and deficiencies in the immune system, monitor health and make medical diagnoses,” said Dr. Yu-Chong Tai, investigator on NSBRI’s Technology Development Team. “Looking ahead to future missions to the moon and Mars, astronauts will need to perform simple blood tests to get up-to-the-minute information on their health.”
Presently, the slow process of assessing blood composition requires bulky counting machines, trained technicians and a large amount of blood (approximately two syringes or ten milliliters), so analysis cannot be done in space. To assess their physiology, astronauts draw blood samples in orbit for analysis after their return. “In addition to space medicine, the technology could be used in neonatal care since large blood draws are not possible with infants,” Tai added.
They call it lab-on-a-chip because the little device does a task that used to require a whole laboratory. Science is effectively compressing a whole lot of functionality in a very small volume.
This is only the start of personal health monitoring, something you’ll be hearing a lot of in the future. Other examples of personal health monitoring are smart toilets that analyze your droppings and nanotech t-shirts that monitor your heart rate and perhaps even analyze your sweat.
A decade from now, we’ll all look back to the the primitive times of the early 21st century, when we didn’t even know what was going on inside our own bodies.
How barbaric was that?