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Low-Tech Blood Separator

June 3, 2010

Two undergraduates design a low-tech centrifuge for use in developing countries.


Kitchen gadgets for global health…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If someone suffers from anemia in the developing world, it could be a sign of malnutrition, HIV infection or another disease. The condition can be detected by separating red blood cells from plasma using a centrifuge. But many rural health care workers don’t have access to one, or to electricity with which to run it. Now, Rice University undergraduates Lila Kerr and Lauren Theis have come up with a low-tech solution. Kerr says they looked in the kitchen.

LILA KERR (Rice University):
We kind of thought to ourselves what things do we encounter in everyday life that are manually powered and essentially spin things really quickly, so a salad spinner came to mind.

With a few modifications to hold test tubes in place, the team transformed the kitchen implement into a functional centrifuge. They plan on testing the device in Africa and South America this summer. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.