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Centrifuges have radicalized the field of medical science when it comes to processing blood. Before these machines were invented, you had to let time and gravity do the work to separate blood into its component parts, often resulting in compromised samples.

Centrifuges use the latest technology to help labs process blood swiftly and efficiently. They do this by harnessing the fundamental principles of physics to separate components.

If you’re wondering if your lab should invest in a centrifuge, this article is for you. Learn how centrifuges have changed the game for the medical field, enhancing diagnostic capabilities and opening doors for therapeutic applications.

Understanding Centrifugation

Before getting into their specific applications in blood processing, it’s good to understand broadly how centrifuges function.

Centrifuges use the basic principles of rotational force to separate substances that have different densities.

The centrifuge was first introduced in the late 19th century as a device to separate butter and cream. Although the machine has been further refined in the intervening years, its basics have remained the same.

The machines spin a sample at high speeds in a rotor. The centrifugal force pushes the heavier components to the bottom and the lighter components to the top.

If you’re interested in the physics behind centrifugation, the equation is defined by the balance between centrifugal and buoyant force: v=rω2(Pp−Pf)fv=frω2(Pp​−Pf​)​ where:

  • r is the radial distance from the axis of rotation,
  • ω is the angular velocity,
  • Pp and Pf​ are the densities of the particle and the fluid, respectively,
  • f is the frictional coefficient, which depends on the shape and size of the particle.

The modern centrifuge

MDX-Front-_-RtWe’ve come a long way from the milk and cream separators of the past. Today, centrifuges like the TOMY MDX-310 allow you to process dozens of test tubes and plates simultaneously. They also have many features that ensure consistency and ease of use.

These features include:

  • Electronic lid interlock system that prevents the lid from opening
  • Preset memory functions that allow you to program 2 presets
  • Innovative sensing systems that detect rotor imbalances, excessive speeds, and abnormal chamber temperatures
  • And refrigeration down to -9 °C

These features allow quick, precise, and simple blood centrifugation.

Centrifugation in Blood Processing

For most blood processing, blood must be separated into its primary components: red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, and platelets. This makes centrifuges indispensable for studying blood-borne diseases, developing new treatments, and giving patients faster and more accurate diagnoses. Here are three common centrifuge applications in blood processing.

1. Plasma isolation

One of the principal ways centrifuges are used in blood processing is to separate plasma from the rest of the blood. Plasma is an excellent diagnostic tool because it contains so much information about the subject’s overall health.
The other use for the separated plasma—which contains proteins, electrolytes, and antibodies—is the treatment of immune deficiencies and clotting disorders.

2. Disease diagnosis

Centrifuges allow for the precise separation of blood into its component parts, which can be extremely informative for diagnosing certain diseases. The relative concentration of red and white blood cells, platelets, and plasma can all indicate anemia, leukemia, thrombocytopenia, and many other disorders.
Without a centrifuge, you’re forced to go by the less precise measurements from the natural separation caused by time.

3. Creation of platelet-rich plasma (PRP)

One last significant application for centrifuges is the preparation of platelet-rich plasma, which has many therapeutic uses. These include sports medicine and regenerative therapy to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints. The centrifuge simplifies this process by allowing you to separate the components quickly and concentrate the platelets.

Why the Alternatives to Centrifuges for Blood Processing Are Inferior

While centrifuges are the most common and accessible means for blood processing, there are alternatives. However, depending on your needs, these all have cons that may render them useless.

Gravity sedimentation

This form of blood processing requires the least equipment. It uses the same guiding theory behind centrifuges: that blood comprises components of different densities.
If you wait long enough, generally 24 hours, the heaviest parts of blood will sink to the bottom while the lighter parts will rise to the top.
This method is effective if you only need a rough separation and don’t need the blood separated immediately. However, it’s inefficient and has a high risk of contamination.

Filtration

Another method for blood processing is filtration, which involves passing blood through various mediums that capture specific cells while allowing others to pass through.
Depending on the filter material, you can selectively isolate each part of the blood.
While this method offers more precision than gravity sedimentation, it’s still labor-intensive and prone to error. To achieve complete separation, you will need to repeat the process three times.

Gel barriers

The last common method of blood processing is the use of gel barriers. This involves using collection tubes that contain a gel with a specific density that acts as a physical barrier. Once the blood is collected, the tube is left upright, and the gel positions itself between the plasma and the rest of the blood.

Gel barriers are a combination of the filtration and gravity sedimentation methods. While it offers more precision than gravity sedimentation and is less hands-off than filtration, it’s still less precise than centrifugation and involves waiting.

Centrifuges Are Changing the Game

If you’re involved in blood processing, a centrifuge is an integral tool. It allows you to quickly and efficiently process blood in bulk while ensuring stable temperatures and precise separation. This has huge implications for labs involved in disease research or diagnosis. While there are other blood processing methods, none offer the certainty and ease of a centrifuge.

If you’re looking to purchase a centrifuge, we’re here to help. TOMY centrifuges are the best on the market and offer distinct advantages. Contact us today to learn more!

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