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Highlights in Chemical Technology

Chemical technology news from across RSC Publishing.



Lab-on-an-egg-beater


15 October 2008

A hand-powered egg beater can act as a centrifuge for separating plasma from blood, thanks to modifications made by US scientists.

George Whitesides and colleagues at Harvard University, Cambridge, carried out the work to enable point-of-care disease detection in developing countries.

Modified egg beater and separated blood

The modified egg beater can separate plasma from blood

Many immunoassays require plasma to diagnose disease. Typically, blood is transported to a lab where the plasma is separated by electrically-powered centrifuges and stored in refrigerators. But the equipment is expensive and difficult to move, which hinders its use in rural and developing communities where people cannot travel easily to health centres.

"The most striking thing about this collection of technologies is that they address a specific need or capability while carefully taking into consideration the limitations of the environment in which they will be operated."
- Doug Weibel, University of Wisconsin-Madison, US

'The objective was to separate serum from blood using readily obtained materials in a resource-constrained environment,' explains Whitesides. 'The work opens eyes to new possibilities.'

The cheap, portable and readily-available egg beater can be used at the point of care, meaning that health workers can diagnose illness in remote areas. The technique also uses smaller volumes of blood than regular centrifuges.

'This technique is simple and works remarkably well,' says Doug Weibel, an expert in microbiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, US. 'This technique complements several other "simple solutions" that the Whitesides group has developed to tackle point-of-care diagnostics in resource-poor settings. The most striking thing about this collection of technologies is that they address a specific need or capability while carefully taking into consideration the limitations of the environment in which they will be operated.'

Robin Forder

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Link to journal article

Egg beater as centrifuge: isolating human blood plasma from whole blood in resource-poor settings
Amy P. Wong, Malancha Gupta, Sergey S. Shevkoplyas and George M. Whitesides, Lab Chip, 2008, 8, 2032
DOI: 10.1039/b809830c

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