Though it may sound like a paradox, innovative technologies may bring the veterinarian back where he or she belongs: in the stable, next to the animals that need care. Back in the days, the vet’s visit was the moment in which animal health care was delivered. Since then, scientific and technological advancements made detection of pathogens shift from the stable and the vet’s local practice to large centralized labs and specialized vet clinics. While curative medicine has long been the norm, nowadays the emphasis is shifting towards prevention and early detection of disease, as well as management of multiple chronic conditions (like mastitis). While the integration of advances in biochemistry, proteomics, engineering, and medicine offers enormous potential for the development of rapid, accurate, and sensitive diagnostic methods of viral, microbial, genetic and metabolic diseases, the integration of low-cost diagnostic devices with wireless communication are revolutionizing the field of veterinary diagnostics.
The shift from curative medicine, to predictive, personalized, and preemptive medicine relies on the development of smart portable diagnostic and monitoring devices. Young, innovative companies like Blue4Green offer low-cost technology instruments combining multiple analytical functions into a self-contained, portable handheld lab. The use of Lab-on-a-Chip technology allows for analysis of the electrolyte balance of a wide range of fluids such as blood, urine or milk. The diagnostic equipment, combined on a small disposable chip containing micro- and nanostructures, can determine the concentration of charged particles like calcium and magnesium and count the number of somatic cells present.
These miniaturized devices in combination with a PDA that functions as a mobile laboratory and communication device, dramatically change the way veterinarians and nutritionists work. The mobile handheld lab, that was baptized “Labbook”, frees them from their office or (external) lab facilities and delivers results instantly, empowering them to make decisions at the “point of animal care”.
The next challenge for Blue4Green is developing a portable sample handling/sensing system for DNA and/or RNA fragments with single molecule sensitivity, capable of detecting sub-picomolar concentrations of oligonucleotides, without amplification steps. The input is a raw sample of milk, containing the bacteria that cause mastitis. Detecting mastitis at an early stage is a new competitive eco-innovative process resulting in lower culling rates and an older average age of a herd. ‘Extending lifespan’ leads to the reduction of phosphate excretion, contributing to a smaller environmental ‘footprint’ of a dairy farm.
Blue4Green is contributing to shaping the future of animal diagnostics, steering away from over-treatment by facilitating faster and preventive health analysis, with samples as small as a single drop.