Researchers from The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona, Spain, working under the umbrella of the European Commission’s Photonics Public Private Partnership, have designed a portable microscope that could reduce the time needed to detect sepsis. Also known as blood poisoning, the whole-body inflammatory reaction kills more than 20,000 people every day worldwide.

The new diagnostic combines photonics technology, microfluidics, and molecular biology to yield results in 30 minutes. Current techniques can take as long as 24 hours to perform a similar test.

Components of the portable platform for rapid detection of sepsis. Image source: ICFOComponents of the portable platform for rapid detection of sepsis. Image source: ICFOThe book-sized microscope sends polarized beams of light through birefringent crystals, a cartridge containing a blood drop, and an array of receptors. The device detects the interaction of light with the bacteria or proteins captured by the receptors. Physicians can then assess the type and quantity of biomarkers present based on the intensity of the transmission image.

The portable, point-of-care device comes with integrated software, and ICFO researchers note it is simple to operate and could be used in remote areas by junior physicians. The system may even be developed so that self-diagnosis could be possible.

Developed as part of the “Scalable point-of-care and label free microarray platform for rapid detection of Sepsis”(RAIS) project, the microscope can simultaneously detect more than one million biomarkers at a cost of €50 ($56) per patient for a test.

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