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Bubbles could be the key to Future Blood tests

CSIRO : 14 October, 2006  (Technical Article)
Patients could soon have the results of blood tests available before they have finished their initial medical consultation thanks to new ways of mixing a single drop of blood.
Patients could soon have the results of blood tests available before they have finished their initial medical consultation thanks to a new way of mixing a single drop of blood.

Scientists in the Microfluidics Team at CSIRO Manufacturing and Infrastructure Technology have developed and patented a micro-technology that uses sound to mix blood.

The process, using sonic vibrations, accelerates the biological interactions that are a critical component of standard diagnostic testing, and enables the testing to be done on the spot in a consulting room.

The next step is the development of a tiny device that would fit into the palm of a doctor's hand.

Traditional pathology laboratory tests typically require larger volumes (often several test tubes' worth) of fluid to perform a test. The sample is then mixed with a panel of biological reagents, so that immunologically important proteins in the patient's fluid sample physically interact with the panel of reagents.

This is a process that is highly dependent on the two components mixing, the blood sample and the reagents.

On this larger scale, mixing is done by a simple shaking motion, yet turbulence disappears at the micro-scale that is required if routine diagnostic testing is to be taken out of the pathology laboratories and into the doctor's surgery.

'Mixing is one of the key bottlenecks that needs to be overcome to miniaturise diagnostic testing,' explains Dr Richard Manasseh, a member of the Microfluidics Team.

'Without a suitable mixing technology at the small scale, the interaction of the components in the fluid relies upon diffusion, a process which can slow a diagnostic test down by many hours.'

In the technology used by the Microfluidics Team, tiny bubbles surrounding the fluid sample within a microfluid channel are excited using piezoelectricity (a type of crystal that can electronically generate a frequency). The small amplitude periodic oscillations act on the bubble.

This creates a flowing circular motion in the fluid due to the acoustic field around the bubble, causing a 'micro-mixing' effect.

Such micro-mixing technology has the ability to reduce the mixing time from hours to seconds; a saving that would be significant in both time and money.
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