Blood-testing device could check health of astronauts

The European Space Agency (ESA) has begun developing a blood-testing device for astronauts on the International Space Station.

In use, a pinprick of blood is added to a mini-disc embedded with miniaturised test procedures. The disc is then inserted into a point-of-care device and set spinning to spread the blood sample across the surface.

According to the ESA, multiple tests are performed simultaneously, with automated results delivered within minutes.

Testing for conditions including diabetes, heart disease, liver and kidney damage, the device reportedly promises to perform some of the billion or so blood tests ordered by care providers annually to a laboratory level of accuracy.

ESA is now looking to adapt the device for space, having signed a contract with Ireland’s Radisens Diagnostics in October.

Additional tests will be added and the design developed for the space environment, ensuring its spinning technique works in weightlessness.

‘Biochemical analysis aboard the space station is becoming a high priority for the human physiology experiments carried out there,’ said Nadine Fritz of the ESA’s directorate of human spaceflight and operations.

‘The retirement of the space shuttle has significantly reduced the amount of cargo we can download from the station, so it makes sense to do what analysis we can do in orbit.’