Identifying vitamin deficiencies in babies involves drawing blood, a disheartening experience for all involved. Scientists at Michigan Technological University are working on a painless alternative.
Instead of using blood plasma, Adrienne Minerick, an associate professor of chemical engineering, is developing a simple analysis tool for tears. And there's no crying involved: a simple absorbent strip placed against the lower eyelid collects all the fluid needed.
Ultimately, her team aims to measure levels of vitamins A, C, D, E and K, plus all the B vitamins, using tears and a hand-held diagnostic tool called a lab-on-a-chip. The project is funded by the Gerber Foundation. Also collaborating in the research are Lynn Mazzoleni, assistant professor of chemistry at Michigan Tech, and a team from the University of Michigan.
During initial work, the team has identified all vitamins except one in baby tears using conventional lab techniques. They are comparing those measurements with vitamin levels in the babies' blood plasma to see if they correlate; initial results are promising.
"Ideally, infants would never experience nutritional deficiencies, but there are regions of the world where up to 40 percent of children are malnourished. By the time symptoms of deficiencies are recognizable, damage has already occurred that can impact child development," said Maryam Khaksari, Minerick's graduate student. "Our easy, painless, and inexpensive method will be able to identify deficiencies much early than symptoms diagnosis, before lasting damage occurs."
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