The “bloodbot” separates the components of blood samples taken from hemophilia patients, registers them with a bar code and prepares them to be frozen for later analysis. The robotic arm allows for faster and more accurate processing, according to scientists.
“We’re very pleased with how this is working. Where we could only process about 25 samples a day, with the robot we’re now able to do more than 50 samples, and we hope to increase this to more than 100 in the near future,” said Bruce Ritchie, MD, FRCPC, professor in the U of A Division of Hematology and the director of the Blood Borne Pathogens Surveillance Project (BBPSP). “One of the main things this machine does is eliminate the possibility of human error in some minute, repetitive work.”
Ritchie and his team have been working at the BBPSP laboratory since it was established in 2000. The lab receives blood samples from 25 clinics and hospitals from across the country. According to Ritchie, more than 160 million units worth of factor VIII blood products are transfused in Canada each year.
The lab, which is sponsored by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Association of Hemophilia Clinic Directors of Canada, has also been using the robot to test samples for hepatitis C and HIV. Thousands of Canadian hemophilia patients were infected with these viruses in the 1970s and 1980s through the inadvertent use of contaminated blood products. Since it opened, the laboratory has yet to find a positive sample for either hepatitis C or HIV.
With knowledge of past blood safety failures and the subsequent crisis experienced by the hemophilia community, Ritchie is optimistic about forestalling a similar catastrophe in the future. “It’s really encouraging,” he said. “We’ve been able to confirm that the measures put into place are working to ensure we don't have a tragedy like the one that occurred in the '70s and '80s.”
Source: University of Alberta news release dated February 8, 2007