microsampling: a simple idea, 50 years in the making
Some ideas are so simple, it takes us 50 years for anyone to come up with them.
Such is the case with dried blood microsampling technology.
Capillary blood sampling has always had obvious practical advantages over venipuncture. The experience is less painful for patients and participants, particularly children, the elderly, and those who can't lose too much blood.
But how best to collect the blood (or other biological fluid) and store it for later use? For nearly 50 years, this was a flummoxing question.
Dried blood spot cards and filter paper were developed to make capillary blood useful in medicine and research. However, from the outset, the card-based method came with some frustrations.
DBS cards were never easy to use. Automation proved immensely complex and prohibitively expensive. Because of the hematocrit bias, an unfortunate side effect of the DBS sampling process that compromised the data that could be feasibly generated from punched cards, capillary blood samples could not produce results that correlated with those associated with wet blood.
If a way could be found to produce quantitative, volumetrically accurate dried blood samples, many challenges of DBS cards could be overcome. In the past, DBS, in many cases, simply didn't scale. For many researchers, practitioners, and lab directors alike, it seemed easier to just stick with venous blood.
It wasn't until decades later that James Rudge and Neil Spooner brainstormed and developed Volumetric Absorptive Microsampling (VAMS™) technology. Like many such simple ideas, it turns out to have an array of applications in a wide variety of areas.
VAMS now drives Mitra® microsampling products, which are only now beginning to see widespread adoption in clinical and preclinical research, clinical trials, hospital labs, and elsewhere. What was created to solve for the limitations of DBS is proving to be a multi-faceted breakthrough medical device.
The story of dried blood microsampling is a reason to be both optimistic and patient. The world of healthcare is full of persistent problems waiting for solutions. Sometimes, those solutions can take a long time to develop. Sometimes, they are so simple, it takes half a century for anyone to create them.
When dealing with your everyday challenges, don't let your frustration blind you to subtitles and details. Put your big questions in the back of your mind. Let them percolate. When you arrive at a solution, you may wonder how you never saw it before.