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Scientists Develop Quick, Inexpensive Paper Blood Type Test

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Natural disasters and other emergencies often result in the need for blood transfusions. But they also can result in a loss of electricity, which can make it impossible to perform the tests required to determine a patient’s blood type. Now researchers in China may have an alternative: a cheap, rapid blood type test made of color-changing paper. They reported their progress in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Each of the eight blood types has its own antigens and antibodies (either type A or type B), which help the immune system defend against unwelcome interlopers. Injecting a patient with incompatible antigens and antibodies causes the immune system to attack, making a person much sicker.

The researchers’ new blood type test works by identifying which antibodies and antigens trigger this immune attack. They mixed dye into two solutions, one containing antibody A and one containing antibody B, and printed small squares of the dye mixture onto either end of a long strip of paper.

Zhang et al. 2017. Science Translational Medicine.

 
To test a patient’s blood, they squeezed a few drops into the center reservoir. That blood then seeped through the paper, spreading toward the antigens at either end. Different blood types react differently to the antigens, causing the dye to turn either teal or brown. The entire process takes less than two minutes.

The researchers used both their new paper test and the current time- and electricity-intensive method to test 3550 different samples. The little piece of paper was astonishingly on-point, reaching the same conclusions as the electronic test 99.9 percent of the time.

More experiments are needed before the paper test will be ready for prime time, but it’s a very promising start. Along with recently developed paper microscopes and paper centrifuges, this cheap test could do a world of good in the places that need it the most.

[h/t Popular Science]

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Netherlands Officials Want to Pay Residents to Bike to Work
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Thinking about relocating to the Netherlands? You might also want to bring a bike. Government officials are looking to compensate residents for helping solve their traffic congestion problem and they want businesses to pay residents to bike to work, as The Independent reports.

Owing to automobile logjams on roadways that keep drivers stuck in their cars and cost the economy billions of euros annually, Dutch deputy infrastructure minister Stientje van Veldhoven recently told media that she's endorsing a program that would pay employees 19 cents for every kilometer (0.6 miles) they bike to work.

That doesn't sound like very much, but perhaps citizens who need to trek several miles each way would appreciate the cumulative boost in their weekly paychecks. For employers, the benefit would be a healthier workforce that might take fewer sick days and reduce parking needs.

Veldhoven says she also plans on designing a program that would assist employers in supplying workers with bicycles. The goal is to have 200,000 people opting for manual transportation over cars. If the program proceeds, it might find a receptive population. The Netherlands is already home to 22.5 million bikes, more than the 17.1 million people living there. In Amsterdam, a quarter of residents bike to work.

There's no timeline for implementing the pay-to-bike plan, but early trial studies indicate that the expense might not have to be a long-term prospect. Study subjects continued to bike to work even after the financial rewards stopped.

[h/t The Independent]

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New Health-Monitoring Litter Box Could Save You a Trip to the Vet
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Unsure if your cat is sick or just acting aloof per usual? A “smart toilet” for your fur baby could help you decide whether a trip to the vet is really necessary.

Enter the Pet Care Monitor: More than a litter box, the receptacle is designed to analyze cat urine for health issues, The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo reports. Created by the Japan-based Sharp Corporation—better known for consumer electronics such as TVs, mobile phones, and the world's first LCD calculator—the product will be available for purchase on the company’s website starting July 30 (although shipping limitations may apply).

Sensors embedded in the monitor can measure your cat’s weight and urine volume, as well as the frequency and duration of toilet trips. That information is then analyzed by an AI program that compares it to data gleaned from a joint study between Sharp Corp and Tottori University in Japan. If there are any red flags, a report will be sent directly to your smartphone via an application called Cocoro Pet. The monitor could be especially useful for keeping an eye on cats with a history of kidney and urinary tract problems.

If you have several cats, the company offers sensors to identify each pet, allowing separate data sets to be collected and analyzed. (Each smart litter box can record the data of up to three cats.)

The Pet Care Monitor costs about $225, and there’s an additional monthly fee of roughly $3 for the service. Sharp Corporation says it will continue developing health products for pets, and it has already created a leg sensor that can tell if a dog is nervous by measuring its heart and respiratory rates.

[h/t The Asahi Shimbun]

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