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Laser Technology Speeds Up Blood Incubation

Blood incubator
Photo Credit: Monash University

Researchers based at Australia’s Monash University, together with an industry partner, have developed the world’s first blood incubator using laser technology.

This could reportedly prevent fatal blood transfusions in critically ill patients as well as detect antibodies in pregnant women that can kill a foetus.

Benefits of the Project

  • The results published in Nature’s Scientific Reports show that these findings could bring pre-transfusion testing out of the pathology lab to point-of-care, slashing blood incubation time to just 40 seconds.
  • This is much faster than the industry gold standard of five minutes.
  • This breakthrough has the potential improve the pre-transfusion testing of millions of patients undergoing blood transfusions across the world.
  • This would be particularly perfect for those having major surgery, going into labour, or causalities of mass trauma and individual trauma.

About the Project

  • The detection of immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies requires incubation at 37°C, often for up to 15 minutes.
  • However, current incubation technology relies on slow thermal procedures, such as heating blocks and hot-water baths.
  • This delay adds to pathology costs and turnaround time, which substantially affects a patient’s chance of survival.
  • A laser incubation model was developed to address this problem. This will allow a targeted illumination of a blood-antibody sample in a diagnostic gel card to be converted into heat via phototermal absorption.
  • The laser-incubator heats the 75 µL blood-antibody sample to 37°C within 30 seconds.
  • Most importantly, no significant damage is detected to the cells or antibodies for laser incubations of up to 15 minutes.

Time is of the Essence

  1. Laser incubation can be extremely valuable when time and accuracy is vital, especially in critical and emergency settings such as mass trauma.
  2. During this time, pre-transfusion testing needs to be performed quickly in order to save lives.
  3. The study was led by Dr Clare Manderson from the Bioresource Processing Institute of Australia (BioPRIA), located within the University’s Department of Chemical Engineering, in conjunction with blood diagnostics manufacturer.
  4. Red blood cells act as photothermal agents under near-infrared laser incubation, triggering rapid antigen-antibody binding with no significant damage to the cells or antibodies for up to 15 minutes.
  5. This demonstrates that laser-incubated immunohaematological testing to be both faster and more sensitive than current best practice.

Significance of the project

  1. For the patient, if there is a critical blood-loss scenario and they are in desperate need of a transfusion, they need to have their blood group typed and antibody screened as quickly as possible.
  2. Blood transfusion is a critical treatment for a variety of haematological conditions, including cancer chemotherapy, bleeding trauma, childbirth and major surgery.
  3. Transfusion reactions are common if the recipient and donor are not correctly matched.
  4. More than 1.2 million blood components are transfused each year in Australia, and 21 million in the US.
  5. While the technology is not yet commercially available, the industry partner holds a patent for this innovation.
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