URI Invents Fast, Inexpensive Blood Test

A team of URI engineers and students, thinking big, and invented a small device that will eliminate shipping blood to a laboratory and anxiously waiting for several days to get the results.

The portable device needs just a pinprick of blood and provides results in less than 30 minutes.

Testing can be performed in a clinic, in a doctor’s office, or right at home, according to Mohammad Faghri, professor of mechanical engineering and lead researcher on the project: “Patients can have their blood tested when they walk into the doctor’s office, and the results will be ready before they leave.”

With the new lab-on-a-chip technology, a drop of blood is placed on a plastic polymer cartridge smaller than a credit card and inserted into a shoebox-sized biosensor containing a miniature spectrometer and piezoelectric micro-pump. The blood travels through the cartridge in tiny channels 500 microns wide to a detection site where it reacts with preloaded reagents enabling the sensor to detect certain biomarkers of disease.

Several patents are pending on the invention. Compared to similar devices in development elsewhere, the URI system is much smaller, more portable, requires a smaller blood sample, and is less expensive. While the sensor costs about $3,200, each test costs just $1.50, which is the cost for the plastic cartridge and reagents. Commercialization should begin shortly.

Faghri envisions further miniaturization of the invention so that it can be adapted into a smart phone application. Patients will be able to test themselves and send the results to the doctor’s office. Now that has quite a healthy ring to it!