Science & Tech
Astronauts testing Canadian-made diagnostic device

Chris Hadfield wires a condensate transfer pump aboard the International Space Station.

Credits: QMI AGENCY

QMI AGENCY

A small, portable device that could give near-instant results of blood tests will be put to the test in space by astronaut Chris Hadfield and his team.

The Microflow may be able to provide super-fast analysis of infections, cancer markers and other biological agents, the Canadian Space Agency says.

Developed by Quebec's National Optics Institute, the machine uses fibre optics to detect cells in very small samples of liquid as they pass in front of a laser, then transfers all the data it collects to a USB key for analysis.

It's a miniature version of the big, heavy flow cytometers found in labs. The Microflow's diminutive size - about the dimensions of a toaster and weighing less than 10 kg - make it ideally suited for use in space.

The hope is it could one day be used for testing and diagnosis in remote communities or areas hit by natural disasters, where medical equipment is not easily accessible.

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