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Separating blood plasma with a toy

Researchers have found a novel use for “fidget spinner” toys – separating blood plasma for diagnostic tests.

Centrifuges are expensive and require electricity that might not be available in resource-limited regions.

The new approach could be useful for medical applications in regions of the world that lack electricity and other resources.

Chien-Fu Chen, Chien-Cheng Chang and colleagues wondered if a commercially available fidget-spinner could generate enough force to separate blood plasma with the flick of a finger.

They placed human blood samples in tiny tubes, sealed the ends and taped a tube to each of the three prongs of a fidget-spinner.

They found that by flicking the spinner with a finger three to five times, they could separate about 30% of the plasma with 99% purity in only four to seven minutes.

To verify that the plasma was suitable for diagnostic tests, the researchers spiked blood with a human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) protein, separated the plasma with the spinner and performed a paper-based detection test.

The inexpensive, simple method detected clinically relevant concentrations of the viral protein in only a drop of blood. A video of a fidget spinner being used as a centrifuge can be viewed here.

Image credit | iStock

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