Delivering Impact – Blood lines spelled out

blood-lines-spelled-out

Monash University Magazine, Delivering Impact – Blood lines spelled out.

This was an idea I saw proposed a year or so ago. Great to see it is in practice. Anything that reduces the possibility or unintentional error has to be a good thing.

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Another way light provides the answer for blood testing

Light replaces the Needle.

‘Empa and the University Hospital Zurich have joined forces to develop a sensor that gages the blood sugar through skin contact. And best of all: No blood samples are necessary, not even to calibrate the sensor. “Glucolight” is initially to be used in premature babies to avoid hypoglycemia and subsequent brain damage.’ ex Empa website

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Damien de Courten, scientist at Dept. of Neonatology, University Hospital Zurich, shows Glucolight’s measuring head with the smart membrane. Photo: Empa.

Weavers Turn Silk Into Diabetes Test Strips

January 08, 2015 9:59 AM ET

Using a simple wooden handloom, weavers create silk strips that diabetics can use as glucose sensors. This loom is at Achira Labs in Bangalore, India. Courtesy of Tripurari Choudhary

itoggle caption Courtesy of Tripurari Choudhary

Using a simple wooden handloom, weavers create silk strips that diabetics can use as glucose sensors. This loom is at Achira Labs in Bangalore, India.

Courtesy of Tripurari Choudhary

It’s a new way to do silk screening, that’s for sure.

Bangalore-based Achira Labs has figured out a way to hand weave diabetes test strips from silk. That sounds pretty luxurious compared to the standard materials of plastic or paper. But silk turns out to have several advantages in a country like India, where weavers who can work a handloom are abundant and the material is readily available and inexpensive.

Many people with diabetes depend on these little strips to monitor their blood sugar levels. They prick a fingertip, dab a blood drop onto a test strip and then feed the strip into a glucose reader. The idea to use silk for medical sensors isn’t new for Achira labs, which has made silk strips that change color when they detect a deadly type of diarrhea in diapers.

The new silk strips for diabetics, which will roll out this year, give the same information as other types of glucose strips but are easier to manufacture. Plastic and paper strips are typically sprayed with enzymes that break down blood sugar into electricity. Then a machine has to embed electrodes in the material, so the electrical signals can be transmitted into the glucose meter. Achira’s silk sensors only require the spray. The coated threads can conduct the electrochemical signals.

Sobha (center) is one of the weavers who turn silk into test strips. To her right is Tripurari Choudhary, a design engineer at Achira Labs. To her left is Mithila Azad, a company director. Courtesy of Manjunath Tahsildar hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Manjunath Tahsildar

Sobha (center) is one of the weavers who turn silk into test strips. To her right is Tripurari Choudhary, a design engineer at Achira Labs. To her left is Mithila Azad, a company director.

Sobha (center) is one of the weavers who turn silk into test strips. To her right is Tripurari Choudhary, a design engineer at Achira Labs. To her left is Mithila Azad, a company director.

Courtesy of Manjunath Tahsildar

Those silk sensors would meet the FDA’s stringent standards for detecting blood sugar, says MIT chemical engineer Patrick Doyle, who serves as an unpaid adviser for Achira.

And the cost is lower. Right now, a box of 100 paper or plastic strips costs about 1,600 Indian rupees or $25. A box of silk strips will cost one-third to one-quarter of that, says Mithila Azad, director of Achira’s fabric diagnostics division, which has developed the fabric sensors over the last 18 months.

The price point is especially critical in India, which has the second highest number of diabetes cases in the world – 66.8 million – behind China. A low-income Indian family supporting a diabetic relative may spend up to 25 percent of its income on care, according to the World Health Organization, while a similar family in the U.S. might spend around 10 percent.

The strips also create new ways for women weavers to earn money. The weavers who work for Achira are pumping out 100,000 strips every six hours using a traditional handloom.

More weavers should soon be joining them. Last summer, Achira began scouting for a way to weave and distribute the strips in low-income communities. The company teamed with the Working Women’s Forum, which helps marginalized women with handicraft skills, like silk weaving, start small businesses.

This spring, thanks to a $100,000 grant from Grand Challenges Canada, the team will recruit women to open five weaving hubs in rural and suburban towns across Tamil Nadu, a southeastern state where one in 10 people have diabetes. The weavers will run each hub, manufacturing and distributing the silk strips in their communities.

“Any weaver can make it. That’s the beauty. It can give a boost to the small-scale weaving industry,” says electrical engineer Siva Vanjari of the Indian Institute of Technology, who isn’t involved with the project.

But don’t look for silk test strips in U.S. pharmacies. The high price of importing silk means that in the United States, the fabric will likely be reserved for scarves and stockings.

Can we move past an ethnographic approach to Arts/Science ?

One of the common artistic strategies that appears to dominate the current  batch of arts /science exhibitions is the practice of the artist finding or making an artefact of science; either in the laboratory, from a real or  online scientific  archive, or in the collection of a science museum, and then re-locating it to an art exhibition. Simply stated, moving the artefact to an art space or art museum excises it from its original context and locates it within the discourse of art not the discourse of science.

Using the parallels offered by debates  around ethnographic museum practices of collection and interpretation, the artist can be seen simply as a collector acquiring artefacts from ‘other’ sites or discourses with different languages, cultures and contexts. The artefact in this process is then interpreted by its location in a privileged  art space as being within the discourse of art removed of its original context. These colonial type practices  are  increasingly unacceptable but not extinguished  within the ethnographic museum arena .

In order to move past this block the underlying premise of this practice, being one of inclusion/exclusion with each context  seen as a separate or isolated, needs to be broken down