Blood viscometer for clinical diagnose in newly-borns
The devices usually used for measuring human blood viscosity in clinical practice require the extraction of a sample of up to 4ml of blood from the patient. A newborn baby has about 300 ml of blood in his body; therefore these extractions (made with the purpose of diagnosing diseases such as polycythemia) represent a high-risk practice.
Nonetheless, a device developed by the young physicist Nadim Morhel, graduate of the Balseiro Institute in Argentina, requires only a drop of blood to give an accurate result in just a few minutes. “Our sensor is framed within the group of the capillary micro viscometers based on chips. It works by making the blood flow through a series of micro canals under different pressures”. Morhell explains. Considering that under the same conditions, the more viscous fluids flow more slowly, by measuring the pressure, speed and width of the canals, it is possible to determine a fluid’s viscosity; in this case, the newborn’s blood.
This device – national and international patent pending – is formed by a disposable-single use chip, where the blood drop is to be placed, along with an electronic sensor to measure the chip. At the moment, Morhell’s team is developing a micro fabrication platform for the chips that will allow them to immediately produce and commercialize these and other future diagnosis devices.
A number of companies have already developed alternative technologies attempting to allow the measurement of blood viscosity in the clinical environment on a low-cost and precise way, with no need for constant calibration or big amounts of blood. Nevertheless, until now, no device has succeeded in gathering all these promising characteristics. Morhell, however, insists that his viscometer -whose “end users will be medical professionals”- is capable to do so.
“An equipment designed for clinical use should be characterized by the speed with which it can show results, how easy it is to use, and the existence of a system to avoid sample contamination”, says the young inventor. “Our design works with disposable chips, it doesn’t require any previous calibration, provides accurate measurements, and allows to measure complex fluids (including processed or non-processed blood) and the measuring times go from two to three minutes”, he assures.
According to Morhell, the clinical trials on this device will start within the next months in the Bariloche City Hospital, with a newborn specialist pediatrician, who is part of the entrepreneur team” that is developing the device. The next step would be to extend the trials to other hospitals and clinics in Argentina “in a validation process by Red Multicéntrico and sponsored by the Argentinean Pediatrics Society”.
At business level, Morhell is planning to create a company associated to the University and the governmental organisms that have supported the development of this attempt to bring his micro technology to the medical industry. At the same time, his team keeps working on new prototypes to improve the current viscometer, as well as in new designs with different applications trying to “integrate this micro technology into portable and interactive sensors”.
To quote David Israel Sayago Hilera, Project Director of the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) and member of the jury of the TR35 Argentina and Uruguay awards, the venture of this young 26-year-old entrepreneur “will have a great impact in newborn pediatrics, making the current procedures less invasive and improving the life quality of newly-borns”.