Health

Local invention could provide lab results in minutes

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It can take days to learn if you have an infection or disease after patients undergo lab tests, but that soon could change as a result of research at Livermore's Sandia National Labs. A 10-minute blood test is almost here.

Close to $3 million in taxpayer money has gone into the development of the spinning disk device and scientists say it could speed up patient care. Think of how long it takes to get lab results after you see the doctor. The SpinDX produces lab results in minutes instead of days, right as the nurse begins taking your vitals. "While she's taking your weight and asking you questions, in those 10 minutes, the device will run your blood sample and have answers available to the doctor for particular diseases," explained Biosystems Research Manager Anup Singh.

The SpinDX needs just a droplet of blood, typically taken from a fingertip. From there, it gets transferred to a disk. The disk is spun and the centrifugal force separates the blood's proteins for diagnosis. Scientists at Sandia National Labs say they've taken the technology as far as they can. They plan to license it for commercial development. One obvious potential is to create different disks that do specific tests. "You pull out your vacuum-foiled cancer disk out of the fridge and put it on the disk. If you want to look at something more specific, like if we're doing botulinum or e. coli or salmonella testing, maybe you pull that one out, senior scientist Greg Sommer says.

The SpinDX was originally envisioned to be a tool for homeland security to diagnose a biological or radiation attack. It could also be used by food processors to test for safety. "These guys in the lab have run foods like zucchini and canned beans. They've even run peanut butter and spam," Sommer says. Several companies have already expressed interest.

Sometimes the most remarkable thing about high tech is it can also be low tech. The SpinDX operates on batteries. It can do 20 to 30 tests a day and still operate for a full month.

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livermore, medical research, health, david louie
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