Device to scan blood information
Does the sight of a needle raise your anxiety level? Don’t worry, scientists have now developed a new device which they say can reveal your vital blood information in real-time, simply by shining a light through the skin.
Devised by a team at the Israel Institute of Technology, this optical instrument, no bigger than a breadbox, is able to provide high-resolution images of blood coursing through our veins without the need for harsh fluorescent dyes.
“We have invented a new optical microscope that can see individual blood cells as they flow inside our body,” study researcher Lior Golan said.
The new microscope can eliminate the wait-time for blood test results and help spotlight warning signs, like high white blood cell count, before a patient develops severe medical problems, Golan said.
The portability of the device could also enable doctors in rural areas without easy access to medical labs to screen large populations for common blood disorders, he noted.
Using their new device, the researchers imaged the blood flowing through a vessel in the lower lip of a volunteer. They successfully measured the diameter of the red and white blood cells and also calculated the per cent volume of the different cell types — a key measurement for many medical diagnoses.
The device, which was detailed in the journal Biomedical Optics Express, relies on a technique called spectrally encoded confocal microscopy, or SECM, which creates images by splitting a light beam into its constituent colours that are spread out in a line from red to violet.
To scan blood cells in motion, a probe is pressed against the skin of a patient and the rainbow-like line of light is directed across a blood vessel near the surface of the skin.
As blood cells cross the line they scatter light, which is collected and analysed. The colour of the scattered light carries spatial information, and computer programs interpret the signal over time to create 2-D images of the blood cells.
Currently, other blood-scanning systems with cellular resolution do exist, but they are far less practical, relying on bulky equipment or potentially harmful fluorescent dyes that must be injected into the bloodstream, the researchers said.