Challenged to find a way to diagnose anemia that's affordable, mobile, and requires no electricity, Rice University undergrads Lila Kerr and Lauren Theis turned to an old-fashioned salad spinner.
They call it the Sally Centrifuge and are taking it to Ecuador in May and Swaziland and Malawi in June, all as part of Rice's Beyond Traditional Borders global health initiative, which is aimed at creating innovations in biotechnology.
The centrifuge is, the students admit, a pretty simple idea. "There was a whole range of projects to take on this year, and luckily we got one that wasn't terribly engineering-intensive," says Kerr, a sociology major and global health technologies minor from Dayton, Ohio.
When little capillary tubes containing 15 microliters of blood are spun in a salad spinner for 10 minutes, the blood separates into heavier red blood cells and lighter plasma.
The resulting hematocrit--the proportion of total blood volume taken up by red blood cells that they measure with a simple gauge held up to the tube--determines whether that patient is anemic. That in turn help diagnose issues such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and malnutrition.… Read more