A British boffin has invented a device which turns humble bicycles into mobile medical laboratories which could save millions of lives.
Jack Trew, 21, believes his Spokefuge, a centrifuge chamber which attaches to bicycle spokes, provides a low-tech, cheap and effective way to help millions of people across the developing world.
Centrifuges, which are required to diagnose blood disorders such as anaemia, are often expensive to buy, putting them out of reach of poorer communities.
The Spokefuge, which can be manufactured with a 3D printer, does not require a dedicated laboratory, just a bicycle and a volunteer willing to activate it through pedal power.
The device attaches a blood sample to a bicycle’s wheel spokes which then spin around quickly, separating the contents of the sample container through centrifugal force, allowing medics to inspect the sample components.
The invention has been praised by critics and is now on the shortlist for the James Dyson Award for design, which will be awarded on Thursday (NOV 6).
Mr Trew, a design student at Birmingham university, said: “The Spokefuge is a cheap and easy way to diagnose anaemia and it could potentially help millions of people in less developed areas get the treatment they need.”
Mr Trew estimates that each unit could cost around £10 to build.
He said he was not interested in selling his idea for profit.
He said: “I didn’t design the Spokefuge to make any money, I just wanted to make something that could help poor people with restricted access to electrical medical equipment.”
Experts believe that there are over two billion people in the world affected by anaemia, with 57 per cent of non-pregnant women and 68 per cent of pregnant women in Africa suffering from the disease.
Mr Trew said: “I came up with the Spokefuge when I was looking into the problems of diagnosing anaemia. Medical experts in Africa currently use a chemical system where they colour-gauge the blood against a huge colour chart, which is very inaccurate.
“I remembered a centrifuge experiment we did in school which allowed us to easily study the composition of blood. I wanted to replicate that.
“The Spokefuge increases the accuracy and decreases the cost of blood test results. Its easy to make, cheap and it can be sent out to areas where they can’t afford expensive electrical equipment.”
The project, which has been in the design stage for two months, is now due for field testing.
Mr Trew said: “I’m flattered to have been considered for the Dyson prize but this project is still not completed.
“It is far too easy to sit behind a computer and praise the idea in theory without discovering first-hand the usability of the design.
“I’m looking to take some prototypes out to Africa where I can put the Spokefuge through its paces and make changes and alterations until the product really does make a difference.
“It feels good to have my work noticed. The attention came out of the blue.”
The winner of the James Dyson Award, who will walk away with the top prize of around £28,000, will be announced on Thursday (NOV 8).
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