4 May 2012
Inspired by the ideas of author J.K. Rowling, Australian scientists have created a rapid new blood test that spells out a patient’s blood type on bioactive paper.
Using research patented by Monash University, and published recently in Angewandte Chemie, the technology is able to quickly perform ABO and rhesus blood typing tests, and then clearly spell out the results for a user-friendly diagnosis.
Created by Associate Professor Wei Shen, and colleagues at the Monash University Faculty of Engineering, the test is the first equipment-free, bioactive paper-based diagnostic device capable of reporting multiple conditions in written text.
Professor Shen said the research was inspired by the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s novel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
“In the film Harry Potter interrogates Tom Riddles’ diary by writing on a page of paper in the Diary “Do you know anything about the Chamber of Secrets?”; and the paper responded with a “Yes” in writing,” Professor Shen said.
“The artist’s vision showed us that non-conventional mechanisms for reporting results using paper-based sensors should be explored.
“And now we have been able to create that same unambiguous response with a blood test.”
The new test uses the same principles of determining blood type as traditional measures, mixing blood sample and blood typing antibodies and awaiting reaction.
The paper device was printed with a hydrophobic reagent (compounds that repel water) except for the areas marked with the blood type letters.
The team then introduced antibodies into each letter, for example, antibody A into letter A, antibody B into letter B.
A blood sample was then added into all the letters, mixed with corresponding antibodies and rinsed with a saline solution. If the red blood cells in letter A react with antibody A, they will clump together forming a large lump that will not rinse clear, leaving a clearly visible letter A.
Professor Shen said such low-cost and easy to understand sensors could be used in disease screening, medical emergencies and disaster response.
“Where sensors such as these are used in developing regions for large-scale disease screening, even if we can fabricate sensors that are robust enough to function under unsupported field conditions, misinterpretation of results may be a significant factor compromising the value of low-cost diagnostic sensors,” Professor Shen said.
"The device our team developed has overcome a major obstacle in assay result interpretation.
“It is an easy to use, easy to understand alternative.”
The research was funded by the Australian Research Council, and the technology is being developed for the market in partnership with an Australian company, Haemokinesis.