A new microfluidic device from the University of Southampton, called single-cell impedance cytometer, is being reported in Lab on a Chip. The technology promises to perform a white blood cell differential count in a tiny package from a puny sample.
According to Dr David Holmes of ECS, lead author of the paper, the microfluidic set-up uses miniaturised electrodes inside a small channel. The electrical properties of each blood cell are measured as the blood flows through the device. From these measurements it is possible to distinguish and count the different types of cell, providing information used in the diagnosis of numerous diseases.
The system, which can identify the three main types of white blood cells – T lymphocytes, monocytes and neutrophils, is faster and cheaper than current methods.
‘At the moment if an individual goes to the doctor complaining of feeling unwell, a blood test will be taken which will need to be sent away to the lab while the patient awaits the results,’ said Professor Morgan. ‘Our new prototype device may allow point-of-care cell analysis which aids the GP in diagnosing acute diseases while the patient is with the GP, so a treatment strategy may be devised immediately. Our method provides more control and accuracy than what is currently on the market for GP testing.
The next step for the team is to integrate the red blood cell and platelet counting into the device. Their ultimate aim is to set up a company to produce a handheld device which would be available for about £1,000 and which could use disposable chips costing just a few pence each.
Abstract in Lab on a Chip: Leukocyte analysis and differentiation using high speed microfluidic single cell impedance cytometry
*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*