Test Your Own Blood With This Device After Nuclear Disaster


A blood self-collection device aims to quickly estimate a person’s exposure to radiation in the event of a nuclear accident or attack. Researchers developed the system for packaging critical components of a traditional blood-collection kit to create an integrated fingerstick blood collector for radiation countermeasures. An easy-to-use, self-administered radiation blood test that could quickly evaluate a person’s exposure would help triage emergency medical treatment in the event of a radiological or nuclear event. The US Department of Health and Human Services has long sought ways to monitor a population’s radiation exposure following such an event. “Our research addressed a critical need of sample collection and pre-processing in biodosimetry logistics after a large-scale radiological event for radiation countermeasures,” says Jian Gu, associate professor of basic medical sciences at the University of Arizona medical school’s Centre for Applied NanoBioscience and Medicine. Biological dosimetry determines the extent of DNA damage caused by ionising radiation associated with acute exposure from a dirty bomb or nuclear accident. In ionising radiation, electrons are knocked out of atoms and form charged particles. In a nuclear event, hundreds of thousands of people would need to be screened in a very short time, and traditional medical infrastructure for blood collection may not be available. Blood specimens need to be prepared for biodosimetry assays after collection. These assays measure the physical changes in a person’s tissues from radiation. Gu’s work concentrated on the process of collecting and preparing blood to test exposure levels by providing a device that allows a person to collect their own sample that automatically could mix with assay reagents to hasten the process. Using 3D printing, researchers fabricated a miniaturised vacuum tube, integrated capillaries, and a lancet into a self-collection device that can process the blood specimen for both cytogenetic and gene expression biodosimetry that a centralised bioanalytical laboratory would then analyse. Cytogenetic biodosimetry measures the response of circulating blood lymphocytes in the body to accurately estimate the absorbed radiation dose. Gene expression biodosimetry measures the expression levels of a panel of radiation-sensitive genes for the absorbed dose. Results could come back in one day in the gene expression tests and three days with the cytogenic tests. The device was easy to use for people who never had used a fingerstick blood collector and delivered results similar to samples collected using traditional methods, Gu says. The integrated format avoided the possibility of contamination. “The integrated collector will alleviate the sample collection bottleneck for radiation countermeasures following a large-scale nuclear event, and may be useful in other applications with its self-collection and liquid reagent sample pre-processing capabilities,” Gu says. The study appears in PLOS One. The study is part of a core National Institutes of Health program in partnership with Columbia University and Georgetown University, under a U19 National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant, which the Centre for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation sponsors. Support for the research came from NIH/NIAID.

Futurity, 23 October 2019
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