This team recently developed a microchip cytometer with the ability to analyze white blood cells (WBC) differential count. This cytometer uses micro-fluidics to assess various cells in the blood. The electrical properties of the blood cells are assessed while the blood actually flows through the chip. The measurements are used to determine and count the different types of WBCs. At present, this device can identify three types of white blood cells (T-lymphocytes, Monocytes and Neutrophils) quicker and more inexpensively than current systems. This team is hoping that they will be able to include the technology for RBC count and platelet count into the chip soon.
At the moment—if an individual goes to the doctor complaining of feeling unwell—a blood sample is taken which will sent to the lab while the patient awaits the results. This new prototype device aids doctor in diagnosing acute diseases while the patient is with him, so a treatment strategy may be devised immediately.
Ongoing advances in nanotechnology and micro fluidics are contributing to many different efforts to create point-of-care testing devices for assays that currently must be performed in central laboratories. The blood testing chip under development at the University of Southampton is just one example. Pathologists and lab managers should expect to see a regular flow of Point of Care Testing systems (POCT) reach the clinical marketplace in coming years.