ETH develops new device for taking blood samples

Zurich – A team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) has developed a safe and inexpensive device with which even laypersons can take blood samples for reliable measurements. It can be used to diagnose malaria, for example, and is modeled on leeches.

A new, simple device from ETH for taking blood samples could take away people's fear of syringes, needles and blood. Above all, it is easy to use and can also be used by people without medical training. According to a report by the ETH, the new device is not able to collect as much blood as a needle, but significantly more than a prick in the finger or earlobe. This makes measurements more reliable.

The researchers based their development on leeches: They attach themselves, penetrate the skin with their teeth and create a negative pressure by swallowing, which they use to suck blood from the wound. The new and inexpensive device is a type of suction cup that is attached to the upper arm or back. It contains a dozen microneedles that puncture the skin when pressed against it. When released, a negative pressure is created which collects blood.

The device is still made of silicone and the needles of steel. The team is now in the process of developing the next version from fully degradable materials. Before the device can be used for blood tests in malaria regions, for example, it must also be tested on humans following studies on pigs. The research group is still looking for a funding partner, such as a charitable foundation. The work to date has been supported by the Fondation Botnar through the Basel Research Center for Child Health. ce/mm

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