New Biosensor Provides Complete Blood Cell Count Test Results in Minutes

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new biosensor based on a microfluidic biochip that can count blood cells electrically using just a drop of blood, potentially replacing the standard protocol for obtaining a complete blood count (CBC), according to results published in Technology.

The CBC is one of the most commonly ordered blood tests, and standard practice includes using a hematology analyzer, which requires trained technicians and physical sample transportation. Together, these conditions make CBC tests difficult to access in areas with a scarcity of medical resources. The slow turnaround time also limits throughput in hospitals.

To address these concerns and potential delays, Rashid Bashir, PhD, the principal investigator of the study, and colleagues developed a biosensor to count red blood cell, platelet, hemoglobin, and white blood cell counts at the point-of-care. The microchip device counts the different types of blood cells based on their size and membrane properties, using only 11 microL of blood. Furthermore, test results are returned in just 20 minutes.

“This new technology will be most useful in resource-limited settings, where laboratory tests are often inaccessible due to cost, there is a lack of laboratory facilities, and the difficulty of follow-up upon receiving results that could take days to process,” said Dr. Bashir. The researchers also indicated that this test can cost as little as $10, while the current standard CBC count test costs $100.

“The technology [not require] experience for device operation,” said Umer Hassan, PhD, the lead author of the study. “Even patients can perform the test in the comfort of their home and share the results with their primary-care physicians via electronic means.”

In the future, the researchers hope to develop a portable version of the cell counter and expand the use of the biochip-based test into other areas, including animal diagnostics, blood transfusion analysis, and blood cell counting for the management of chemotherapy.

Sources: World Scientific press release, December 18, 2015; Hassan U, Reddy B, Damhorst G, et al. A microfluidic biochip for blood cell counts at the point-of-care. Technology. 2015;3:201.