A new approach to blood collection

Florian Lapierre

The hemaPEN™ is a convenient, portable device for collecting and safely storing blood samples by anyone, anywhere, anytime. Trajan is currently developing this technology through the ARC Training Centre for Portable Analytical Separation Technologies (ASTech). We caught up with hemaPEN inventor and former MCN postdoctoral resident, Dr Florian Lapierre, to find out more.

MCN: How does the hemaPEN work?

FL: The hemaPEN uses advanced microfluidic capability, in the form of precision capillaries, to collect a precise volume of blood from the fingertip without the need for external actuators like pumps or syringes. The proprietary collection and storage mechanism from the fingertip to the hemaPEN prevents any cross-contamination of the blood sample. The blood is securely contained, preserving its integrity for testing and ensuring there is no biohazard risk or external contaminants. The unique design prevents degradation of the sample and contributes to more accurate results.

MCN: How did this invention come about?

FL: ASTech has 16 work programs related to sample preparation, separation and detection. Part of my role as an ASTech Post-Doctoral Research Fellow is to lead one of these projects focusing on the accurate microsampling of blood and its safe storage prior to analysis at a laboratory.

My previous research has always been focused on the manipulation of small sample volumes (in the order of picoliters) for further analysis. This involved the fabrication of microfluidic devices using numerous technologies such as electrowetting-on-dielectric (EWOD), surface acoustic waves (SAW), and flow-focusing microchannels in the same context.

MCN: What work was undertaken at MCN?

FL: The first prototypes were fabricated at MCN using the advanced 3D printing capabilities there. At least five iterations of the hemaPEN prototype were designed and manufactured before getting the desired result.

I was familiar with MCN as I used to work there as a postdoctoral fellow for the past three years before my employment with the ASTech program. ASTech’s industry founder Trajan Scientific and Medical has a residency at MCN, so we are able to take advantage of MCN facilities for our research and development. The 3D printing capability offered a rapid prototyping option at low cost, allowing me to test different prototype designs over a short period of time.

MCN: Tell us a bit about the technical side of the device.

FL: The hemaPEN encompasses the advantages of three critical components. The first is the pen shape. The hemaPEN has been designed similar to the four-colour retractable pen. This enables easy adoption of the device by anyone in the community who needs to collect a blood sample from the fingertip. After pricking the fingertip (using a standard lancet), the user clicks the hemaPEN to extend a capillary from its tip, collect a specific amount of blood from the fingertip, then clicks again to retract that capillary inside the hemaPEN. The collected blood is automatically transferred onto blotting paper for safe storage. In the meantime, the user can collect another blood sample by clicking to extend the next capillary. hemaPEN can store up to four blood samples for analysis.

Secondly, the capillaries. You can see the capillaries as a very small hollow cylinder with high precision dimensions. Its internal capacity has been calculated and manufactured to collect a defined volume of blood (i.e. 1 µL to 20 µL depending on the capillary and requirements for laboratory testing). Moreover, due to the specific surface chemistry of the capillary, capillary action takes over gravity which enables collection of blood in any position, without the need for pumps or syringes.

Third, the blotting paper. FDA approved blotting paper specifically for blood sampling and storage was chosen to absorb the blood collected using the capillary. In a similar action to a sponge, the whole volume of blood is transferred from the capillary onto the paper within hemaPEN’s integrated storage compartment.

MCN: What impact could this technology have on the everyday person?

FL: hemaPEN saves time for the patient and laboratory by delivering superior samples for better results. Therefore, it will change the way individuals have their blood tested - eliminating the need to visit a clinic. The familiar pen design is easy to use by anyone, with blood safely collected and stored with the click of a button.

Moreover, hemaPEN can be easily integrated into current healthcare systems. hemaPEN’s precision blood sampling will save time, cost, and improve accuracy of blood analysis, setting industry standards.