Portable Analyzer Brings Blood Testing to Rural Areas

Indian researchers create a Raspberry-Pi-based device to monitor health

2 min read
Purple gloved hands hold a pink capped vial filled partially with dark blood.
Krisztian Bocsi/Getty Images

Blood tests are vital for detecting and monitoring disease, but they are most often done near more populated areas, where the samples can be analyzed in a laboratory. Seeing the need for a more transportable system that can analyze blood samples in rural and remote areas, two researchers in India have developed a new design that is simple, affordable, and easily deployed anywhere where a source of electricity is available.

Sangeeta Palekar is a researcher at Shri Ramdeobaba College of Engineering and Management (RCOEM) who helped devise the new design. She and her colleague, Jayu Kalambe, understand how powerful a simple blood test can be. "Routine blood tests can help track and eliminate the threat of many potential diseases," explains Palekar, noting that blood tests make up roughly one-third of all pathology laboratory tests.

Many existing devices in the laboratory use light to analyze blood sample. As light passes through a substance, its intensity changes depending on the concentration of the substance it is passing through. In this way, levels of red bloods cells or glucose, for example, can be quantified. The new analyzer by Palekar and Kalambe takes a similar approach. It involves an automated fluid dispenser that adds a controlled amount of reagent into the blood sample. Light is then passed through the sample, and a Raspberry Pi computer analyzes the data. The system can be adapted to analyze any biochemical substances in the blood by simply modifying the reagent and spectral wavelength that's used.

The researchers began by using commercially available reagent kit for analyzing glucose levels. They tested this reagent in their new design, and describe the results in a study published August 27 in IEEE Sensors Journal. When comparing the data obtained by their biochemical analyzer to the known results obtain by standard laboratory equipment, they found the data matched almost perfectly. What's more, the device could yield accurate results in just half a minute.

A pink box with a green circuit board and electronics is connected by wires to a assortment of electronics including a power supply and pump. This prototype offers a cheap way to analyze blood samples remotely. Shri Ramdeobaba College of Engineering and Management

Palekar notes there are a lot of perks to this design. "The developed platform offers the advantages of automation, low cost, portability, simple instrumentation, flexibility, and an easily accessible interface," she says. "Overall, the proposed framework is an attractive solution to be incorporated in the low resource area as a universal platform for all biochemistry analysis simply by varying the wavelength of light and reagent."

As a next step, the women are interested in expanding upon the different types of blood analyses that can be done, for example to analyze proteins, cholesterol, triglyceride, albumin, and other common substances in the blood that are medically important. Palekar notes that the hardware could be further simplified with the right software solutions. As well, she envisions incorporating an IoT platform into the design, which could be helpful for remote monitoring.

The Conversation (2)
Robert Maccione 15 Sep, 2021

This is nothing more than a rehash of the 1970's Technicon SMAC system and so I'm curious why is it news worthy? If anything it seems like standard undergrad experiment or even high school science fair project.

1 Reply

This CAD Program Can Design New Organisms

Genetic engineers have a powerful new tool to write and edit DNA code

11 min read
A photo showing machinery in a lab

Foundries such as the Edinburgh Genome Foundry assemble fragments of synthetic DNA and send them to labs for testing in cells.

Edinburgh Genome Foundry, University of Edinburgh

In the next decade, medical science may finally advance cures for some of the most complex diseases that plague humanity. Many diseases are caused by mutations in the human genome, which can either be inherited from our parents (such as in cystic fibrosis), or acquired during life, such as most types of cancer. For some of these conditions, medical researchers have identified the exact mutations that lead to disease; but in many more, they're still seeking answers. And without understanding the cause of a problem, it's pretty tough to find a cure.

We believe that a key enabling technology in this quest is a computer-aided design (CAD) program for genome editing, which our organization is launching this week at the Genome Project-write (GP-write) conference.

With this CAD program, medical researchers will be able to quickly design hundreds of different genomes with any combination of mutations and send the genetic code to a company that manufactures strings of DNA. Those fragments of synthesized DNA can then be sent to a foundry for assembly, and finally to a lab where the designed genomes can be tested in cells. Based on how the cells grow, researchers can use the CAD program to iterate with a new batch of redesigned genomes, sharing data for collaborative efforts. Enabling fast redesign of thousands of variants can only be achieved through automation; at that scale, researchers just might identify the combinations of mutations that are causing genetic diseases. This is the first critical R&D step toward finding cures.

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