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Researchers 3D print key components for a point-of-care mass spectrometer

The low-cost hardware outperforms state-of-the-art versions and could someday enable an affordable, in-home device for health monitoring.

Mass spectrometry, a technique that can precisely identify the chemical components of a sample, could be used to monitor the health of people who suffer from chronic illnesses. For instance, a mass spectrometer can measure hormone levels in the blood of someone with hypothyroidism.

But mass spectrometers can cost several hundred thousand dollars, so these expensive machines are typically confined to laboratories where blood samples must be sent for testing. This inefficient process can make managing a chronic disease especially challenging.

“Our big vision is to make mass spectrometry local. For someone who has a chronic disease that requires constant monitoring, they could have something the size of a shoebox that they could use to do this test at home. For that to happen, the hardware has to be inexpensive,” says Luis Fernando Velásquez-García, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL).

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