Whether they are working on a cure for life-threatening diseases or the common cold, inventors from the School of Medicine at Stanford University are working on an inexpensive medical sensor that would simplify the diagnosis of immune deficiencies. Their most recent development is a microfluidic waveguide sensor, which measure various strains of white blood cells by sorting and counting them within samples of blood and other bodily fluids. Known as a key component of the body’s immune system, white blood cells can be identified using a sensor that is no larger than a thumbnail, making it easy to diagnose common ailments in a doctor’s office, hospital nursery or even a disaster scene.
As medical equipment manufacturers are acutely aware, the cost of advanced diagnostic devices is not always within the reach for many healthcare institutions. However, the need for point-of-care monitoring of immune deficiencies and infectious diseases is paramount in a clinical setting. According to a team of inventors in the pediatrics department at Stanford University, the field of bio-microfluidics offers the best hope for screening immune-deficiencies without the need for costly medical equipment. Commercialization of such a sensor could revolutionize rural medicine and make it easier to treat patients in a timely and effective manner.
Initially developed for screening newborns with severe immunodeficiency and low T-cell counts, the 15-minute test can also screen older children and adults in the same way. While the sensor was not originally intended for widespread use, its low-cost mechanism makes it a natural diagnostic tool for a wide range of conditions.
The various types of white blood cells found in the body each have their own role in fighting diseases. Some are used on a daily basis to fight off common infections such as the common cold, and others are more inclined to battle cancer and AIDS. Until now, the process of counting cells required large blood samples and costly medical equipment that could only be used by trained lab technicians. Catching these immune disorders early is a key element in curing them, and this new sensor will make it as easy as using a glucometer for measuring blood sugar.