Microfluidics... In Space?

Radins' microfluidic chip will allow astronauts to test for "blood sugar, liver and kidney function, and more." (Image source)

Radins' microfluidic chip will allow astronauts to test for "blood sugar, liver and kidney function, and more." (Image source)

What realm of life is safe from microfluidics? Hopefully none, as the technology continues to work its way into our lives. Although few us can say we have been to space, but those astronauts (or cosmonauts) up there now can look forward to a bit more microscale flow in the world.

I recently came across an article at Popular Science (which just happens to be one of my favorite websites) about the European Space Agency (ESA), which is planning on deploying microfluidics-based diagnostics into space. The ESA is working with an Irish company Radisens Diagnostics that will produce the device capable of diagnosing ailments in low gravity. The device will require a drop of blood and will test for “blood sugar, liver and kidney function, and more.” Apparently the company already has a similar device and will make some adjustments to make it space-ready. Like the best things that work in space, the device spins, which likely helps the flow in low gravity. The device is about the size of a matchbox, which must make ESA happy, as space and weight are tightly spent when planning trips to space. This lab-on-a-chip will keep the astronauts safer, as they often have to diagnose and treat themselves while in space. Out of anyone in the world, I'd say they have the greatest point-of-care needs. I wonder what will come first: My trip to space with microfluidics, or microfluidics finally finding its rightful place in our everyday lives.