Patients dealing with cancer or infectious diseases require frequent blood tests to monitor their conditions. And, although important, frequent trips to the doctor to give samples can be very time-consuming. But a small device called the HemoLink that uses gentle vacuum pressure promises to let patients easily draw their own blood at home.
Using the HemoLink, which was developed by three former students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is as easy as pressing the ping pong ball sized disposable device against your skin for two minutes. Using very light vacuum pressure it's able to draw a small sample of blood from a tiny near-painless prick, and then passively transfer it to a vial that can then be mailed or couriered to a lab for testing. And unlike needles which have to be precisely targeted to draw blood, the HemoLink is far more forgiving making it easy for someone without medical training to use it, even on themselves.
The HemoLink's creators recently received a $US3 million DARPA grant to develop a blood preservative allowing the sample to survive a full week at temperatures as high as 60C, while remaining viable for accurate testing. It's an essential part of the HemoLink's potential success, as requiring refrigeration would complicate shipping, and negate the advantages of being able to draw blood samples at home. [Tasso via University of Wisconsin-Madison]