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Just one drop needed for new, accessible blood tests: UC project

Marcus Butler

21 December 2016: A blood test can be inconvenient for patients living in rural areas, with limited mobility or who are simply time-poor, but this could soon be a thing of the past thanks to the work of researchers from the University of Canberra.

Associate professor of science Ashraf Ghanem and his team are developing tests for common health conditions that require just a drop of dried blood that can be mailed to a laboratory for testing.

The project recently received an AusIndustry Innovation Connection Grant worth $50,000 and is being done in partnership with pathology test provider MyHealthTest who have awarded further research funding worth more than $64,000.

MyHealthTest’s services are currently limited to a test for the diagnosis and monitoring of diabetes, but Dr Ghanem and his team are collaborating with MyHealthTest to develop a broader range of tests for measuring things like vitamin deficiencies and hormones.

Dr Ghanem said the project aims to create more sensitive, accurate and efficient tests, while also eliminating some of the uncomfortable after effects of sample collection.

“For some people, taking a blood sample in a pathology lab environment might be scary and sometimes the needle can be uncomfortable or painful. Being able to have these tests done in your own home by using a tiny pin-prick to take a drop or two of blood and then mailing in the dried sample, might appeal to many people,” Dr Ghanem said.

The method is already being used to test for diabetes, but MyHealthTest’s Belinda Whittle says the research is developing a range of other tests including detecting Vitamin D deficiencies and hormones such as oestradiol, progesterone and testosterone.

“The collaborative work with the University of Canberra is helping to produce accurate tests that use tiny amounts of blood to gain an important insight into a person’s health, and together with a doctor they can improve their treatment and overall wellbeing,” Ms Whittle said.

Dried blood spot tests are less likely to involve exposure to bio-hazards for laboratory staff and they are safe for those handling the mail.

“The blood is absorbed by the sheet of paper, where it dries,” she said. “Once dried, the sample will remain stable for quite a long time, and because it’s all embedded within the paper, it’s never going to spill or leak so it’s safe to send through the post.”