Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Another Spin

3D-printed hand-operated centrifuge enables biological testing in remote areas

20 June 2019

Another Spin

A disc spinning between two loops of string, the whirligig, is a 5000-year-old toy returning over the centuries in different forms – the latest will save lives. This 3D-printed version is modified to hold tiny tubes of biological samples like saliva or blood. When it spins it acts like a tiny centrifuge – whirling samples at up to 6000 rotations per minute and pulling dense particles or cells downwards, separating biological samples into fractions for further analysis. Vital to medical diagnoses, lab-based centrifuges are expensive and require power, while the whirligig centrifuge, dubbed the 3D-fuge, is completely hand operated. Previously taken for a spin in the rainforests of Peru – where it helped to extract DNA to identify plant species – the 3D-fuge could also form part of a portable lab used in remote areas to test patients for conditions like malaria.

Written by John Ankers

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