'Sally Centrifuge' Helps Diagnose Anemia

HOUSTON, May 5 (UPI) — Two U.S. students say they’ve turned a salad spinner into a centrifuge for use at medical clinics in developing countries where there’s no electricity.

Rice University undergraduates Lila Kerr and Lauren Theis named their creation “Sally Centrifuge” and they’ll take it abroad this summer as part of the university’s “Beyond Traditional Borders” health initiative that brings new ideas and technologies to underdeveloped countries.

“There was a whole range of projects to take on this year, and luckily we got one that wasn’t terribly engineering-intensive,” said Kerr, a sophomore from Dayton, Ohio.

“We were essentially told we needed to find a way to diagnose anemia without power, without it being very costly and with a portable device,” added Theis, a freshman from San Antonio.

The students modified the salad spinners to act as a centrifuge to separate blood into red blood cells and lighter plasma — a function involved in determining if a patient is anemic. That, they said, is critical in diagnosing malnutrition, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria.

“Many of the patients seen in developing world clinics are anemic, and it’s a severe health problem,” said Professor Maria Oden, the team’s co-advisor with Professor Rebecca Richards-Kortum. “Being able to diagnose it with no power, with a device that’s extremely lightweight, is very valuable.”

Oden said the centrifuge, assembled using plastic lids, cut-up combs, yogurt containers and a hot-glue gun, costs about $30, including the spinner.

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