A new hand-held blood cell analysis device for doctors' surgeries is being developed by the University of Southampton. Led by Professor Hywel Morgan at the University's Nano Research Group, a team has developed a microfluidic single-cell impedance cytometer that performs a white cell differential count. It can spot the three main types of white blood cell - T lymphocytes, monocytes and neutrophils – and is faster and cheaper than current methods, the researchers said.

The device was developed in collaboration Professor Donna Davies and Dr Judith Holloway from the University’s school of medicine, and Philips Research.

The University said that the next step is to integrate red blood cell and platelet counting into the device, with the ultimate aim of setting up a company to produce a handheld device which would be available for about GBP1,000, and which could use disposable chips costing just a few pence each.

‘At the moment if an individual goes to the doctor complaining of feeling unwell, a blood test will be taken which will need to be sent away to the lab while the patient awaits the results,’ said Professor Morgan. ‘Our new prototype device may allow point of care cell analysis which aids the GP in diagnosing acute diseases while the patient is with the GP, so a treatment strategy may be devised immediately. Our method provides more control and accuracy than that what is currently on the market for GP testing.