New blood-testing technology that promises to improve healthcare treatments for cancer patients, post-operative care and monitor the health of babies in the womb is being developed by Lancaster academics.
A portable bedside blood diagnostics device is the focus of a collaborative research project involving Lancaster-based company eBiogen Limited, clinicians from Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, and academics from Lancaster University's Chemistry Department and Faculty of Health and Medicine.
The new small-scale technology, called 'EBio-LacSens', would rapidly measure blood characteristics to monitor for sepsis or toxins. It would be a good indicator of the success of treatments following operations and it could ensure the early detection of sepsis in chemotherapy patients. In addition it could help evaluate the status of foetuses.
The device does this by taking pinprick samples of blood and providing rapid chemical analysis - in less than a minute. This quick processing of samples, when compared to the traditional process where samples that have to be sent for analysis at hospital laboratories (a process that can take hours), enables medical staff to quickly adjust treatments in response to the improved data.
Michael Mumford, from eBiogen, said: "This project passed its feasibility stage and it is now progressing well in its prototype stage with encouraging results. We are starting the human blood testing soon before proceeding to market. Lancaster University has enabled us to develop a rich and supportive expert network."
By bringing blood diagnostics closer to the patient there are additional benefits of reduced risk of contamination and cost savings.
Dr Mukesh Kumar, the project Research Fellow, said, "Although the existing point-of-care testing kits have resolved a few conventional problems, they have not had a great impact in most clinical testing. The new technology would circumvent many current problems through miniaturisation, enabling an economical, portable analyser to be used 'by the bedside'. The prospect of being able to significantly reduce the time between taking a sample and the delivery of the analysis is exciting and rewarding."
The point-of-care market has been estimated (by a Yole Development study in the US) at $38B (£28.7B) in 2017. This $38B represents 16 per cent of the whole in‐vitro‐diagnostic (IVD) market.
Professor Peter Fielden, Head of Chemistry at Lancaster University, said: "Working with eBiogen has given us a great opportunity to develop our academic ideas through technology transfer into real devices that will have significant impact in healthcare."
An additional benefit to the technology is that it uses very small samples of blood plasma - a few microlitres (pinprick droplets) as opposed to several millilitres (a full vial) as required by current testing procedures. This is a significant improvement when dealing with young children and patients with poor blood vessels.
The researchers are also exploring additional future potential applications for the technology. These could include environmental monitoring and food security.
Dr David Telford, Consultant Microbiologist at Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust said: "A unique feature of this new project is the close links and networks developing between academics and clinical end-users at all stages of product development from concept to marketing. This ensures that our products are useful in the modern health care environment."