US-based Tasso Inc. has developed a device that aims to make blood sampling less painful and more convenient.

By placing the ping-pong ball sized device, called HemoLink, against the skin for two minutes, a vacuum is created that extracts a small sample of blood that flows into an attached sample tube, which can then easily be mailed or handed to a lab.

According to Tasso Vice President and Co-founder, Ben Casavant, the technology relies on the forces that govern the flow of tiny fluid streams. “At these scales, surface tension dominates over gravity, and that keeps the blood in the channel no matter how you hold the device.”

Casavant added that by moving the blood in open channels rather than traditional closed channels will simplify manufacturing and cut costs for a disposable device that needs at least six injection-moulded plastic parts.

HemoLink was originally developed when the three founders were studying microfluidics at University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I was studying circulating tumour cells,” said Casavant. “Erwin (Berthier, now head of research and development) was looking at the movement of immune cells, and Ben (Moga, now president) was working on an injectable-device start-up.”

Tasso was recently granted another $3 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to perfect the technology in the hopes of using it to help cut time-expensive visits to blood labs and make the experience easier for those scared of needles.

The device can currently draw enough blood to test “basically anything that is being tested for in a modern lab,” said Casavant, such as cholesterol, infection, cancer cells and blood sugar.

However, diabetics who need to test their blood sugar several times a day are not Tasso’s target market. “We see our specialty as people who need to test semi-frequently, or infrequently, to monitor cancer or chronic infectious diseases,” said Casavant. “Instead of buying a machine or expensive equipment, we ship you this device, you put it on your arm for two minutes and send it back to the lab.”

According to Casavant, Tasso aims to send the technology to the FDA before the end of the year for launch in 2016.

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