Ancient Toy Inspires Bioengineers to Develop Groundbreaking Medical Tool


When you visit a doctor’s clinic and a staff extracts blood from you, the blood undergoes several processes to gather data helpful in determining your health condition. This process usually makes use of a centrifuge, a laboratory equipment used in processing the blood.

But in developing countries lacking even basic medicines, access to this equipment can be a real challenge. Thus, a group of researchers has developed a tool that can function like the centrifuge, thanks to an obsolete toy.

Handheld Centrifuge

Just like any other laboratory equipment, the centrifuge is mostly powered by electricity. In areas where even water supply is scarce and electricity is a luxury, the equipment may be only good as an ornament.

That is the inspiration behind the innovative technology, called the paperfuge, inspired by an ancient toy. The handheld centrifuge can be operated without the use of power, as its nickname suggests. The team behind this groundbreaking technology published their findings in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

The main objective of the project is to bring research-backed medical technologies in far-flung areas, especially in developing countries. The equipment can be a good companion of medical practitioners working in the field.

High Level of Accuracy

Although this is only a handheld medical device, the paperfuge demonstrated nearly identical accuracy with the centrifuge used in clinics. In fact, it can perform important laboratory procedures such as blood analysis in diagnosing anemia, Live Science reported.

“The haematocrit value obtained was in good agreement with control experiments conducted simultaneously on a commercial electric centrifuge (Methods). Furthermore, the resulting pure plasma could be easily retrieved for use with other rapid diagnostic tests,” an excerpt of the study reads.

The tool was tested in analyzing blood and diagnosing health conditions that plague parts of Africa, including malaria and African trypanosomiasis. It was found that the sample needed for diagnosing the conditions was obtained after spinning the blood sample for 15 minutes.

According to the World Health Organization, most African countries are battling with the mosquito-borne disease of malaria. In its 2015 data, 90 percent of deaths due to malaria worldwide happened in the African region.

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