Laser technology speeds rapid blood incubation

A blood incubator using laser technologies has been developed by scientists at Monash University, in partnership with medical manufacturer Haemokinesis.

To safety transfer and transport blood, the liquid has to be heated to 37oC, which is done with current technology via heating blocks or hot-water baths. These methods can take up to 15 minutes to heat the blood to the required temperature, which allows for the detection of immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies.

In contrast, the later-based incubation system developed by the partnership has been proven to heat a 75µL blood-antibody sample to 37oC in less than 30 seconds. With commercialisation of the technique still underway, Haemokinesis holds a patent for the innovation.

This method also does no significant damage to cells or antibodies for laser incubation of up to 15 minutes.

When time is sensitive, as blood transfusions often are, this reduction in incubation time has significant benefits, as Dr Clare Manderson from the Bioresource Processing Institute of Australia (BioPRIA) at Monash University highlighted.

“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,” she said.

“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 issue for the researchers was not just heating the blood to the required temperature, but to control the IgG anti-D antibody. Anti-D is the biggest cause of haemolytic disease in foetuses and newborns, when a mother and baby’s blood are incompatible.

“Giving blood transfusions to people isn’t as simple as giving O-negative to anybody. 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,” said Manderson.

When a person is injured or loses a significant amount of blood, similar issues arise, and the rapid testing of blood can be critical.

“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,” said Manderson.