Inventors: Professor Alex Routh & Sheila Bhatt, Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology
Mentor: Alim Thawer
Anaemia is a widespread problem in low and middle income countries. It is estimated that 70% of women in rural India will be anaemic for most of their working lives, due to a low-quality diet.
The researchers at Chemical Engineering have analysed the visual characteristics of drops of blood and shown that reproduceable patterns and profiles are produced as the blood dries. For example the dried blood will show a raised ring around the edge. By looking at similar experiments using polystyrene particles in water, they have shown that the pattern is physically-produced and relates to the number of particles in the liquid.
Although the exact mechanism for the patterns is not understood, the researchers have used these results to envisage a cheap simple measure for the volume fraction of red blood cells, which is used diagnostically to determine whether a person is anaemic. By using specially-treated paper, the test would work on a series of blood droplets placed on the paper. This would give a rapid result at point-of-care which would be measurable with the naked eye plus a reference chart, much in the same way as simple urine tests are conducted with test strips (though using a very different mechanism).
The question for the i-Team is how useful this approach would be in practice, and how it could be used to best effect to improve the health and day-to-day lives of people with anaemia throughout the world.