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.
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