New blood-testing technology that promises to improve healthcare treatments for cancer patients, post-operative care and monitor the health of babies in the womb is being developed by academics at Lancaster University.

A portable bedside blood diagnostics device is the focus of a collaborative research project involving Lancaster-based company eBiogen Limited, clinicians from Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, and academics from Lancaster University’s Chemistry Department and Faculty of Health and Medicine.

The new small-scale technology, called "EBio-LacSens," would rapidly measure blood characteristics to monitor for sepsis or toxins. It would be a good indicator of the success of treatments following operations and it could ensure the early detection of sepsis in chemotherapy patients. In addition, it could help evaluate the status of fetuses.

The device does this by taking pinprick samples of blood and providing rapid chemical analysis in less than a minute. This quick processing of samples, when compared to the traditional process where samples that have to be sent for analysis at hospital laboratories (a process that can take hours), enables medical staff to quickly adjust treatments in response to the improved data.

"This project passed its feasibility stage and it is now progressing well in its prototype stage with encouraging results," said Michael Mumford, from eBiogen. "We are starting the human blood testing soon before proceeding to market. Lancaster University has enabled us to develop a rich and supportive expert network."

An additional benefit to the technology is that it uses very small samples of blood plasma – a few microliters (pinprick droplets) as opposed to several milliliters (a full vial) as required by current testing procedures. This is a significant improvement when dealing with young children and patients with poor blood vessels.

The researchers are also exploring additional future potential applications for the technology. These could include environmental monitoring and food security.