Over the past few years, the field of medicine has benefitted from advancements in biotechnology and research that have brought changes to medical treatments. Once such advancement has provided new convenience, comfort, and efficiency in the area of specimen collection. The advancement is called microsampling.
Microsampling is a process that allows for the collection of much smaller samples of a biological specimen (urine, sweat, tears, blood) or bio-fluid for laboratory testing. The sample collected using the microsampling process could be as small as 10 to 20 μL, which is why it is referred to as a "microsample."
How can a microsample of a bio-fluid provide enough information to help a researcher investigate and understand the underlying mechanisms of a medical condition? And, how can the related data be translated to the clinical side to drive improvements in medical care?
Here are a few of the ways a microsample may be useful:
Some medical conditions require longterm medication. Physicians may want to monitor a person's responsiveness to longterm medications over time. One of the ways this is done is through scheduled blood draws. Going to a clinic for a blood draw could be risky for some patients, but with remote specimen collection and microsampling, it is possible to monitor a person's progress on their medication without requiring them to leave home.
Quite a number of medical conditions are hereditary, which can be identified or predicted through genetic testing. Only a small amount of sample is required for genetic testing and genomic sequencing. Microsampling can help researchers and medical practitioners acquire a large database of information, which could be used to identify disorders. Once researchers have this data, they can then explore new treatments.
Microsampling can help decrease costs and increase convenience by enabling remote specimen collection to be performed by study participants or patients themselves, which can help in terms of decentralization. With microsampling, you do not have to travel to the hospital or lab. Instead, you can collect a specimen sample in the comfort of your home and then send it to the clinic or lab for analysis. This way, you also save on the cost of travel without having to compromise your health. The research or medical staff save on cost as well, since self-collection at home doesn't require the assistance of a healthcare professional.
Microsampling plays an important role in delivering on the promise of translational research that drives improvements in personalized medicine. With microsampling, the future looks brighter for patients, medical practitioners, and the scientists who are constantly looking for ways to improve the field of medicine.