02 October 2019

The world’s first blood incubator using laser technology can reduce incubation time to just 40 seconds, developers have reported.

Researchers from BioPRIA, based at Monash University, Australia, say the technology could improve pre-transfusion testing for millions of patients undergoing blood transfusions.

The 40-second incubation time compares to the current industry gold-standard of five minutes.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, looked to address the problem associated with the detection of immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies, which requires incubation at 37°C for up to 15 minutes.

Existing incubation technology relies on slow thermal procedures, such as heating blocks and hot-water baths, which adds to pathology costs and turnaround time, substantially affecting a patient's chance of survival, the researchers say.

Study lead Dr Clare Manderson said: “Laser incubation can be extremely valuable when time and accuracy is vital, especially in critical and emergency settings - like mass trauma - where pre-transfusion testing needs to be performed quickly in order to save lives.

“We show that red blood cells act as photothermal agents under near-infrared laser incubation, triggering rapid antigen-antibody binding with no significant damage to the cells or antibodies for up to 15 minutes.

“This study demonstrates laser-incubated immunohaematological testing to be both faster and more sensitive than current best practice, with clearly positive results seen from incubations of just 40 seconds."

The researchers reveal that the laser-incubator heats the 75 µL blood-antibody sample to 37°C in under 30 seconds, with no significant damage detected to the cells or antibodies for laser incubations of up to 15 minutes.

For this study, researchers explored the roles of incubation time and temperature of the IgG anti-D antibody and the Rh blood group system's D antigen.

Dr Manderson said: “The ‘universal donor’ of O-negative blood can seriously harm a lot of people, even kill them. The world of pre-transfusion of blood group typing is huge, and it’s really important that it’s done quickly and accurately to help save lives.

“For the patient, it can mean that if there’s a critical blood-loss scenario and they’re in desperate need of a transfusion, they need to have their blood group typed and antibody screened as quickly as possible. We’re aiming to bring that down to seconds instead of tens of minutes.”

Source: Manderson, C.A., McLiesh, H., Curvello, R., Tabor, R.F., Manolios, J., Garnier, G. (2019) “Photothermal incubation of red blood cells by laser for rapid pre-transfusion blood group typing”, Scientific Reports, doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-47646-y


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