Pregnancy tests and blood glucose tests are ingenious point-of-care devices that give users fast and comprehensible results. Now, a new 3D-printed biomedical device may soon turn out to be the same kind of universal tool for patients and medical professionals.

The new 3D-printed diagnostic device, which is currently being tested by a pair of scientists from Kansas State University (KSU), could be used by anyone to detect anemia in less than a minute. It's as easy as taking a blood sample from a finger prick and running it under a smartphone.

Point-of-care devices can be performed outside the lab. The KSU pair, Master's student Kim Plevniak and Assistant Professor Mei He, aims to develop a low-cost, point-of-care device that is suitable for use at home.

Plevniak and He also designed the new 3D-printed device for individuals who have limited access to health care, particularly those living in developing countries.

The Scope Of Anemia

Patients with anemia do not have enough healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to their organs.

About 2 billion people globally are affected by the blood condition, including more than half of children in preschool and pregnant women in developing nations, as well as 30 percent of women and children in industrialized countries.

Although anemia can be treated with vitamins or iron supplements and can be prevented with a healthy diet, Plevniak said it is still a very prevalent condition in developing countries. This is where their new device comes in.

"Often in these developing countries people will have much easier access to smartphones than they will to doctors and trained medical professionals," said Plevniak.

Plevniak, who is taking up her Master's for biological and agricultural engineering, spent nearly 12 months designing an inexpensive prototype device and test that can tap into smartphone devices.

The biomedical tool is made up of 3D-printed clear plastic slides that contain microfluidics that attach to smartphones.

A user can add a drop of blood to the clear plastic slide, which is designed for a color scale-based test. The results are produced in less than 60 seconds and can be read using a smartphone.

Plevniak and He are now developing a companion app with Associate Professor Steve Warren, who is an expert at electrical and computer engineering. The companion app could help manage data from the blood sample and send the test results to respective doctors.

The pair also received approval to begin testing patient samples from the University of Kansas Medical Center. This will help Plevniak and He to optimize the device for diagnosing various levels of anemia in humans.

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