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Publication numberUS20060211127 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/435,933
Publication dateSep 21, 2006
Filing dateMay 18, 2006
Priority dateMar 28, 2002
Also published asCN1306269C, CN1448717A, EP1348960A1, US7282179, US20030186457
Publication number11435933, 435933, US 2006/0211127 A1, US 2006/211127 A1, US 20060211127 A1, US 20060211127A1, US 2006211127 A1, US 2006211127A1, US-A1-20060211127, US-A1-2006211127, US2006/0211127A1, US2006/211127A1, US20060211127 A1, US20060211127A1, US2006211127 A1, US2006211127A1
InventorsYoshihide Iwaki, Kentarou Nakamura, Hideaki Tanaka, Yoshiki Sakaino, Kaoru Terashima, Ichizou Toya
Original AssigneeYoshihide Iwaki, Kentarou Nakamura, Hideaki Tanaka, Yoshiki Sakaino, Kaoru Terashima, Ichizou Toya
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Blood testing unit and blood testing method and apparatus
US 20060211127 A1
Abstract
A blood testing unit comprises a closed vessel having a blood introducing section formed at a certain area of the closed vessel. A blood constituent separating section is located within the closed vessel to separate plasma and/or serum from the blood sample introduced through the blood introducing section into the closed vessel. A reagent layer is located within the closed vessel, such that the reagent layer can be seen from the exterior. The reagent layer comprises a region for spreading the plasma and/or the serum, which has been separated by the blood constituent separating section from the blood sample, and a reagent supported on or in the spreading region, the reagent undergoing a reaction with the plasma and/or the serum and forming a color as a result of the reaction.
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Claims(30)
1. A blood testing method, in which a blood test is performed by use of a blood testing unit comprising:
i) a closed vessel provided with a blood introducing section, which is formed at a certain area of the closed vessel and through which a blood sample is capable of being introduced into the closed vessel,
ii) a blood constituent separating section, which is located within the closed vessel and separates blood plasma and/or blood serum from the blood sample having been introduced through the blood introducing section into the closed vessel, and
iii) a reagent layer, which is located within the closed vessel, such that the reagent layer is capable of being seen from the exterior, the reagent layer comprising a region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has been separated by the blood constituent separating section from the blood sample, and a reagent, which is supported on or in the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the reagent being capable of undergoing a reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and forming a color as a result of the reaction, the method comprising the steps of:
i) irradiating measuring light to a reagent area of the reagent layer, which reagent area has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum,
ii) detecting an intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area, and
iii) detecting an optical density of the reagent area in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area.
2. A blood testing method as defined in claim 1, wherein the measuring light is irradiated to the reagent area of the reagent layer of the blood testing unit, which reagent area has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, and to a mark area, which is provided with a mark representing information concerning the blood testing unit,
the intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the reagent area, and the intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the mark area, are detected,
the optical density of the reagent area is detected in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the reagent area, and
the information represented by the mark is read out in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the mark area.
3. A blood testing method as defined in claim 2, wherein a common photodetector is utilized for both the detection of the optical density of the reagent area and the readout of the information represented by the mark.
4. A blood testing method as defined in claim 2, wherein the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which region constitutes the reagent layer of the blood testing unit, is provided with the mark representing the information concerning the blood testing unit, and
the detection of the optical density of the reagent area and the readout of the information represented by the mark are performed simultaneously.
5. A blood testing method as defined in claim 2, wherein a dummy testing unit, which is provided with the mark representing the information concerning the blood testing unit, is located at a predetermined position, at which the blood testing unit is to be located, and
the detection of the optical density of the reagent area from the blood testing unit and the readout of the information, which is represented by the mark, from the dummy testing unit are performed one after the other at a certain time interval.
6. A blood testing method as defined in claim 2, wherein the irradiation of the measuring light to the reagent area of the reagent layer and the detection of the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area are performed from the side of one surface of the reagent layer opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer, on which other surface the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has been supplied to the reagent area.
7. A blood testing method as defined in claim 1, wherein a plurality of independent light intensity detecting operations are performed with respect to a plurality of subareas of the reagent area of the reagent layer, each of the independent light intensity detecting operations being performed for one of the plurality of the subareas of the reagent area,
results of the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of the reagent area are subjected to statistical processing, a light intensity value representative of the reagent area being obtained from the statistical processing, and
the thus obtained light intensity value representative of the reagent area is taken as the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area.
8. A blood testing method, in which a blood test is performed by use of a blood testing unit comprising:
i) a closed vessel provided with a blood introducing section, which is formed at a certain area of the closed vessel and through which a blood sample is capable of being introduced into the closed vessel,
ii) a blood constituent separating section, which is located within the closed vessel and separates blood plasma and/or blood serum from the blood sample having been introduced through the blood introducing section into the closed vessel, and
iii) a reagent layer, which is located within the closed vessel, such that the reagent layer is capable of being seen from the exterior, the reagent layer comprising a region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has been separated by the blood constituent separating section from the blood sample, and a reagent, which is supported on or in the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the reagent being capable of undergoing a reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and forming a color as a result of the reaction, wherein a plurality of different kinds of reagents are supported at different positions on the reagent layer, the method comprising the steps of:
i) irradiating measuring light to each of reagent areas of the reagent layer, each of which reagent areas has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the measuring light having a wavelength adapted to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas,
ii) detecting an intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas, the detection of the intensity of the reflected light being performed with respect to each of the reagent areas, and
iii) detecting an optical density of each of the reagent areas in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas.
9. A blood testing method as defined in claim 8, wherein the measuring light irradiated to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer is a light component, which has been obtained through light separation so as to have the wavelength corresponding to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas.
10. A blood testing method as defined in claim 8, wherein light, which contains the measuring light having the wavelength corresponding to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas, is irradiated to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer, and
the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is detected through light separation into light components, the light separation being performed with respect to each of the reagent areas.
11. A blood testing method as defined in claim 8, wherein a plurality of independent measuring light irradiating operations are performed with respect to the blood testing unit, each of the independent measuring light irradiating operations being performed for one of the plurality of the reagent areas of the blood testing unit.
12. A blood testing method as defined in claim 8, wherein the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is detected with a photodetector, which has been divided into pixels, and with respect to each of the reagent areas.
13. A blood testing method as defined in claim 12, wherein the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is collected by at least one lens, which is located so as to have a correspondence relationship with each of the reagent areas, and
the thus collected light is guided to the photodetector, which has been divided into the pixels.
14. A blood testing method as defined in claim 8, wherein the irradiation of the measuring light to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer and the detection of the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas are performed from the side of one surface of the reagent layer opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer, on which other surface the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has been supplied to the reagent areas.
15. A blood testing method as defined in claim 8, wherein a plurality of independent light intensity detecting operations are performed with respect to a plurality of subareas of each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer, each of the independent light intensity detecting operations being performed for one of the plurality of the subareas of each of the reagent areas,
results of the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of each of the reagent areas are subjected to statistical processing, a light intensity value representative of each of the reagent areas being obtained from the statistical processing, and
the thus obtained light intensity value representative of each of the reagent areas is taken as the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas.
16. A blood testing apparatus, in which a blood test is performed by use of a blood testing unit comprising:
i) a closed vessel provided with a blood introducing section, which is formed at a certain area of the closed vessel and through which a blood sample is capable of being introduced into the closed vessel,
ii) a blood constituent separating section, which is located within the closed vessel and separates blood plasma and/or blood serum from the blood sample having been introduced through the blood introducing section into the closed vessel, and
iii) a reagent layer, which is located within the closed vessel, such that the reagent layer is capable of being seen from the exterior, the reagent layer comprising a region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has been separated by the blood constituent separating section from the blood sample, and a reagent, which is supported on or in the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the reagent being capable of undergoing a reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and forming a color as a result of the reaction, the apparatus comprising:
i) means for irradiating measuring light to a reagent area of the reagent layer, which reagent area has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum,
ii) means for detecting an intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area, and
iii) means for detecting an optical density of the reagent area in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area.
17. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 16, wherein the measuring light is irradiated to the reagent area of the reagent layer of the blood testing unit, which reagent area has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, and to a mark area, which is provided with a mark representing information concerning the blood testing unit,
the intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the reagent area, and the intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the mark area, are detected,
the optical density of the reagent area is detected in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the reagent area, and
the information represented by the mark is read out in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the mark area.
18. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 17, wherein a common photodetector is utilized for both the detection of the optical density of the reagent area and the readout of the information represented by the mark.
19. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 17, wherein the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which region constitutes the reagent layer of the blood testing unit, is provided with the mark representing the information concerning the blood testing unit, and
the detection of the optical density of the reagent area and the readout of the information represented by the mark are performed simultaneously.
20. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 17, wherein a dummy testing unit, which is provided with the mark representing the information concerning the blood testing unit, is located at a predetermined position, at which the blood testing unit is to be located, and
the detection of the optical density of the reagent area from the blood testing unit and the readout of the information, which is represented by the mark, from the dummy testing unit are performed one after the other at a certain time interval.
21. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 16, wherein the irradiation of the measuring light to the reagent area of the reagent layer and the detection of the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area are performed from the side of one surface of the reagent layer opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer, on which other surface the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has been supplied to the reagent area.
22. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 16, wherein a plurality of independent light intensity detecting operations are performed with respect to a plurality of subareas of the reagent area of the reagent layer, each of the independent light intensity detecting operations being performed for one of the plurality of the subareas of the reagent area,
results of the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of the reagent area are subjected to statistical processing, a light intensity value representative of the reagent area being obtained from the statistical processing, and
the thus obtained light intensity value representative of the reagent area is taken as the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area.
23. A blood testing apparatus, in which a blood test is performed by use of a blood testing unit comprising:
i) a closed vessel provided with a blood introducing section, which is formed at a certain area of the closed vessel and through which a blood sample is capable of being introduced into the closed vessel,
ii) a blood constituent separating section, which is located within the closed vessel and separates blood plasma and/or blood serum from the blood sample having been introduced through the blood introducing section into the closed vessel, and
iii) a reagent layer, which is located within the closed vessel, such that the reagent layer is capable of being seen from the exterior, the reagent layer comprising a region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has been separated by the blood constituent separating section from the blood sample, and a reagent, which is supported on or in the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the reagent being capable of undergoing a reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and forming a color as a result of the reaction, wherein a plurality of different kinds of reagents are supported at different positions on the reagent layer, the apparatus comprising:
i) means for irradiating measuring light to each of reagent areas of the reagent layer, each of which reagent areas has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the measuring light having a wavelength adapted to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas,
ii) means for detecting an intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas, the detection of the intensity of the reflected light being performed with respect to each of the reagent areas, and
iii) means for detecting an optical density of each of the reagent areas in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas.
24. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 23, wherein the measuring light irradiated to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer is a light component, which has been obtained through light separation so as to have the wavelength corresponding to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas.
25. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 23, wherein light, which contains the measuring light having the wavelength corresponding to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas, is irradiated to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer, and
the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is detected through light separation into light components, the light separation being performed with respect to each of the reagent areas.
26. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 23, wherein a plurality of independent measuring light irradiating operations are performed with respect to the blood testing unit, each of the independent measuring light irradiating operations being performed for one of the plurality of the reagent areas of the blood testing unit.
27. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 23, wherein the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is detected with a photodetector, which has been divided into pixels, and with respect to each of the reagent areas.
28. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 27, wherein the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is collected by at least one lens, which is located so as to have a correspondence relationship with each of the reagent areas, and
the thus collected light is guided to the photodetector, which has been divided into the pixels.
29. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 23, wherein the irradiation of the measuring light to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer and the detection of the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas are performed from the side of one surface of the reagent layer opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer, on which other surface the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has been supplied to the reagent areas.
30. A blood testing apparatus as defined in claim 23, wherein a plurality of independent light intensity detecting operations are performed with respect to a plurality of subareas of each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer, each of the independent light intensity detecting operations being performed for one of the plurality of the subareas of each of the reagent areas,
results of the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of each of the reagent areas are subjected to statistical processing, a light intensity value representative of each of the reagent areas being obtained from the statistical processing, and
the thus obtained light intensity value representative of each of the reagent areas is taken as the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas.
Description

This application is a divisional of co-pending application Ser. No. 10/400,585, filed on Mar. 28, 2003, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference and for which priority is claimed under 35 U.S.C. § 120.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to a blood testing unit for use in performing a test of blood of humans and other animals. This invention also relates to a blood testing method and apparatus using the blood testing unit.

2. Description of the Related Art

As blood testing units for use in performing tests of blood of humans and other animals, blood testing units comprising a slide-shaped support and a reagent layer carried on the slide-shaped support, which reagent layer is capable of undergoing a reaction with blood plasma or blood serum and forming a predetermined color, have heretofore been proposed. The blood testing units are proposed in, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,051,901.

In cases where the blood testing units described above are utilized, blood plasma or blood serum is spotted onto the reagent layer of the blood testing unit. Thereafter, light is irradiated to the reagent layer having formed a color, and an intensity of light reflected from the reagent layer is measured. In this manner, a concentration of a specific substance contained in the blood plasma or the blood serum, or the like, is capable of being quantitatively analyzed in accordance with the intensity of the reflected light. An example of an analysis apparatus for performing the blood tests in the manner described above is also disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,051,901.

In cases where the aforesaid blood testing units comprising the slide-shaped support and the reagent layer carried on the slide-shaped support are utilized, the blood plasma or the blood serum is exposed on the blood testing unit to the exterior all the time during the blood test. Therefore, there is the risk that persons in charge of the blood tests will come in touch with the blood plasma or the blood serum by mistake and will catch an infectious disease, such as HIV.

Accordingly, in order to eliminate the problems described above, a blood testing unit comprising a transparent tubular vessel and a reagent fixed within the tubular vessel has been proposed in, for example, European Unexamined Patent Publication No. 1018648. In cases where the proposed blood testing unit is utilized, whole blood is introduced into the tubular vessel and is subjected to a centrifugal separation process. Also, the blood plasma or the blood serum, which has been separated from solid constituents, is brought into contact with the reagent having been fixed within the tubular vessel, and results of reaction of the reagent, such as color formation, are inspected visually or with measurement of intensity of reflected light. Therefore, with the proposed blood testing unit, after the whole blood has been introduced into the tubular vessel, the blood test is capable of being performed such that the person in charge of the blood test may not come in touch with blood constituents.

However, in cases where the blood testing unit proposed in European Unexamined Patent Publication No. 1018648 is utilized, after a blood sample has been introduced into the tubular vessel, the tubular vessel must be set on a centrifugal separator and must then be taken out of the centrifugal separator. Therefore, considerable time and labor are required to perform the blood test.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The primary object of the present invention is to provide a blood testing unit, which enables a blood test to be performed with a simple operation, such that a person in charge of the blood test may not come in touch with blood plasma or blood serum at the time of the blood test.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a blood testing method, wherein a blood test is capable of being performed such that a person in charge of the blood test may not come in touch with blood plasma or blood serum.

A further object of the present invention is to provide an apparatus for carrying out the blood testing method.

The present invention provides a blood testing unit, comprising:

i) a closed vessel provided with a blood introducing section, which is formed at a certain area of the closed vessel and through which a blood sample is capable of being introduced into the closed vessel,

ii) a blood constituent separating section, which is located within the closed vessel and separates blood plasma and/or blood serum from the blood sample having been introduced through the blood introducing section into the closed vessel, and

iii) a reagent layer, which is located within the closed vessel, such that the reagent layer is capable of being seen from the exterior, the reagent layer comprising a region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has been separated by the blood constituent separating section from the blood sample, and a reagent, which is supported on or in the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the reagent being capable of undergoing a reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and forming a color as a result of the reaction.

The blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the closed vessel has a structure such that the area of the closed vessel other than the blood introducing section is constituted so as to keep the interior of the closed vessel in a water-tight state with respect to the exterior, and such that at least a certain area of the closed vessel is formed as a transparent area, and

the reagent layer is located such that the reagent layer is capable of being seen through the transparent area of the closed vessel from the exterior.

Also, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the closed vessel comprises an outer vessel body, which has a bottom wall, and an inner vessel body, which has a bottom wall, and

the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body are combined with each other, such that the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body are capable of sliding with respect to each other, while a space defined by the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body is being kept in an approximately hermetically sealed state, the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body thus defining an enclosed space at the interior in a manner such that a pressure in the enclosed space is capable of being reduced.

In such cases, the bottom wall of the outer vessel body may be formed at an end area of the outer vessel, and the bottom wall of the inner vessel body may be formed at an end area of the inner vessel body, which end area is remote from the bottom wall of the outer vessel body, such that the bottom wall of the outer vessel body and the bottom wall of the inner vessel body may be remotest from each other (i.e., such that the volume of the enclosed space defined at the interior by the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body may become largest) However, particularly, the position of the bottom wall of the inner vessel body is not limited to the position at the end area of the inner vessel body, which end area is remote from the bottom wall of the outer vessel body. For example, alternatively, the bottom wall of the inner vessel body may be formed at the other end area of the inner vessel body, which end area is close to the bottom wall of the outer vessel body. As another alternative, the bottom wall of the inner vessel body may be formed at an intermediate area of the inner vessel body.

Also, in cases where the closed vessel is constituted of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body described above, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should more preferably be modified such that the blood introducing section is formed at the bottom wall of either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body. Further, in such cases, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should more preferably be modified such that the blood introducing section is formed at the bottom wall of the outer vessel body, and

the bottom wall of the inner vessel body is formed at an end area of the inner vessel body, which end area is remote from the bottom wall of the outer vessel body.

Furthermore, in cases where the blood introducing section is formed at the bottom wall of either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should more preferably be modified such that a blood constituent separating membrane, which acts as the blood constituent separating section, is secured to the one vessel body having the bottom wall at which the blood introducing section is formed, such that the blood constituent separating membrane stands facing the bottom wall of the one vessel body.

Also, in cases where the blood constituent separating membrane is secured to the one vessel body having the bottom wall at which the blood introducing section is formed, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the reagent layer is located such that the reagent layer is in contact with a surface of the blood constituent separating membrane, which surface is opposite to the surface that stands facing the blood introducing section.

Alternatively, in cases where the blood constituent separating membrane is secured to the one vessel body having the bottom wall at which the blood introducing section is formed, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the reagent layer is fitted to the other vessel body that is other than the one vessel body to which the blood constituent separating membrane is secured, such that the reagent layer is capable of being brought into contact with the blood constituent separating membrane. In such cases, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may further be modified such that the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which region constitutes the reagent layer, is a membrane-shaped region, which is located approximately in parallel with the blood constituent separating membrane. Alternatively, in such cases, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may further be modified such that the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which region constitutes the reagent layer, is a rod-shaped or plate-shaped region, which extends along an axial direction of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body and is located such that an end area of the rod-shaped or plate-shaped region is capable of being brought into contact with the blood constituent separating membrane.

Further, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should more preferably be modified such that the blood constituent separating section is secured tightly to an inner peripheral surface of either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body, to which one vessel body the blood constituent separating section is secured, without any gap being formed between the blood constituent separating section and the inner peripheral surface of the one vessel body over an entire perimeter of the blood constituent separating section.

Furthermore, in cases where the closed vessel is constituted of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body described above, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should more preferably be modified such that at least either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body is provided with a hole, through which air is capable of being introduced from the exterior to the interior of the one vessel body, and

the one vessel body is provided with a sealing member for closing the hole.

In such cases, the sealing member may be a sheet-shaped member, which is adhered to the one vessel body. Alternatively, the sealing member may be a plug-shaped member, which is fitted into and close the hole, or the like.

Also, in cases where the closed vessel is constituted of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body described above, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should more preferably be modified such that an O-ring is fitted onto an outer peripheral wall of the inner vessel body, the O-ring being capable of keeping the space, which is defined by the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body, in an approximately hermetically sealed state, and

the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body are capable of sliding with respect to each other, while the O-ring fitted onto the outer peripheral wall of the inner vessel body is being in contact with an inner peripheral wall of the outer vessel body.

Further, in cases where the closed vessel is constituted of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body described above, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should more preferably be modified such that an outer peripheral wall of the inner vessel body is provided with an engagement section, which projects outwardly from outer peripheral wall of the inner vessel body,

an inner peripheral wall of the outer vessel body is provided with an engagement section, which projects inwardly from the inner peripheral wall of the outer vessel body, and the engagement section of the inner vessel body and

the engagement section of the outer vessel body are capable of engaging with each other in order to prevent the inner vessel body and the outer vessel body from separating from each other.

Furthermore, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should more preferably be modified such that the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body are provided with locking means for keeping the states of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body when at least either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body has been moved with respect to the other in a direction which increases a volume of the enclosed space defined at the interior by the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body, and the pressure in the enclosed space has thus been set at a negative pressure.

Also, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the closed vessel is a bag-shaped vessel made from a flexible sheet material, and

a permeation member is accommodated within the bag-shaped vessel, the permeation member allowing the blood sample, which has been introduced through the blood introducing section into the bag-shaped vessel, to permeate through the permeation member toward the blood constituent separating section, and allowing the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has been separated by the blood constituent separating section from the blood sample, to permeate through the permeation member toward the reagent layer.

In such cases, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that a frame member is located so as to surround an outer periphery of the bag-shaped vessel, the frame member being adapted to draw and send the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has permeated through the permeation member, toward the reagent layer.

Further, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the closed vessel is constituted of a plate-shaped member, and

a fine path is formed within the plate-shaped member, the fine path causing the blood sample, which has been introduced through the blood introducing section into the plate-shaped member, to move by capillary action through the fine path toward the blood constituent separating section, and causing the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has been separated by the blood constituent separating section from the blood sample, to move by capillary action through the fine path toward the reagent layer.

Furthermore, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the blood introducing section is constituted of a high-elasticity member capable of acting such that the high-elasticity member ordinarily closes the closed vessel, and such that, when a blood sampling needle is stuck into the high-elasticity member, the high-elasticity member allows a tip of the blood sampling needle to penetrate through the high-elasticity member into the closed vessel, while a region between an outer peripheral wall of the blood sampling needle and the high-elasticity member is being kept in an approximately hermetically sealed state.

In such cases, the high-elasticity member should preferably be made from rubber.

Also, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that a plurality of different kinds of reagents are supported at different positions on the reagent layer.

Further, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the blood constituent separating section is constituted of a porous structure material, which allows the blood plasma and/or the blood serum to pass therethrough and obstructs solid constituents from passing therethrough. The porous structure material should preferably consist of a polysulfone membrane. In such cases, the polysulfone membrane should preferably have a pore diameter falling within the range of 0.5 μm to 50 μm. Also, in such cases, the polysulfone membrane should more preferably have a minimum pore diameter falling within the range of 1 μm to 5 μm.

Furthermore, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which region constitutes the reagent layer, contains a substance capable of generating heat in the presence of water. Preferable examples of the substances capable of generating heat in the presence of water include an alumino-silicate, such as zeolite; slaked lime; and a mixture of iron powder and an oxidizing agent.

Also, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which region constitutes the reagent layer, is provided with a mark representing information concerning the blood testing unit.

Further, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that an area of the reagent layer, which area is free from the reagent, is formed as a black plane, a plane of a color close to black, or a mirror plane.

The present invention also provides a first blood testing method, in which a blood test is performed by use of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, the method comprising the steps of:

i) irradiating measuring light to a reagent area of the reagent layer, which reagent area has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum,

ii) detecting an intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area, and

iii) detecting an optical density of the reagent area in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area.

The first blood testing method in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the measuring light is irradiated to the reagent area of the reagent layer of the blood testing unit, which reagent area has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, and to a mark area, which is provided with a mark representing information concerning the blood testing unit,

the intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the reagent area, and the intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the mark area, are detected,

the optical density of the reagent area is detected in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the reagent area, and

the information represented by the mark is read out in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the mark area.

In such cases, a common photodetector should preferably be utilized for both the detection of the optical density of the reagent area and the readout of the information represented by the mark.

Also, the first blood testing method in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which region constitutes the reagent layer of the blood testing unit, is provided with the mark representing the information concerning the blood testing unit, and

the detection of the optical density of the reagent area and the readout of the information represented by the mark are performed simultaneously.

Alternatively, in lieu of the blood testing unit provided with the mark being utilized in the manner described above, the first blood testing method in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that a dummy testing unit, which is provided with the mark representing the information concerning the blood testing unit, is located at a predetermined position, at which the blood testing unit is to be located, and

the detection of the optical density of the reagent area from the blood testing unit and the readout of the information, which is represented by the mark, from the dummy testing unit are performed one after the other at a certain time interval.

Further, the first blood testing method in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the irradiation of the measuring light to the reagent area of the reagent layer and the detection of the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area are performed from the side of one surface of the reagent layer opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer, on which other surface the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has been supplied to the reagent area.

Furthermore, the first blood testing method in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that a plurality of independent light intensity detecting operations are performed with respect to a plurality of subareas of the reagent area of the reagent layer, each of the independent light intensity detecting operations being performed for one of the plurality of the subareas of the reagent area,

results of the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of the reagent area are subjected to statistical processing, a light intensity value representative of the reagent area being obtained from the statistical processing, and

the thus obtained light intensity value representative of the reagent area is taken as the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area.

The present invention further provides a second blood testing method, in which a blood test is performed by use of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, wherein the plurality of the different kinds of the reagents are supported at different positions on the reagent layer, the method comprising the steps of:

i) irradiating measuring light to each of reagent areas of the reagent layer, each of which reagent areas has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the measuring light having a wavelength adapted to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas,

ii) detecting an intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas, the detection of the intensity of the reflected light being performed with respect to each of the reagent areas, and

iii) detecting an optical density of each of the reagent areas in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas.

The second blood testing method in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the measuring light irradiated to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer is a light component, which has been obtained through light separation so as to have the wavelength corresponding to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas.

Alternatively, the second blood testing method in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that light, which contains the measuring light having the wavelength corresponding to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas, is irradiated to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer, and

the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is detected through light separation into light components, the light separation being performed with respect to each of the reagent areas.

Also, the second blood testing method in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that a plurality of independent measuring light irradiating operations are performed with respect to the blood testing unit, each of the independent measuring light irradiating operations being performed for one of the plurality of the reagent areas of the blood testing unit.

Further, the second blood testing method in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is detected with a photodetector, which has been divided into pixels, and with respect to each of the reagent areas. In such cases, the intensity of the light having been reflected from one reagent area may be detected with one pixel among the pixels of the photodetector. Alternatively, the intensity of the light having been reflected from one reagent area may be detected with one group of pixels among the pixels of the photodetector.

Also, in such cases, the second blood testing method in accordance with the present invention should particularly preferably be modified such that the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is collected by at least one lens (such as a distributed index lens), which is located so as to have a correspondence relationship with each of the reagent areas, and

the thus collected light is guided to the photodetector, which has been divided into the pixels.

In such cases, one of a plurality of lenses may be located so as to have a correspondence relationship with one reagent area. Alternatively, particularly, in cases where distributed index lenses are utilized as the plurality of the lenses, a group of lenses may be located so as to have a correspondence relationship with one reagent area.

Furthermore, the second blood testing method in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the irradiation of the measuring light to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer and the detection of the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas are performed from the side of one surface of the reagent layer opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer, on which other surface the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has been supplied to the reagent areas.

Also, the second blood testing method in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that a plurality of independent light intensity detecting operations are performed with respect to a plurality of subareas of each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer, each of the independent light intensity detecting operations being performed for one of the plurality of the subareas of each of the reagent areas,

results of the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of each of the reagent areas are subjected to statistical processing, a light intensity value representative of each of the reagent areas being obtained from the statistical processing, and

the thus obtained light intensity value representative of each of the reagent areas is taken as the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas.

The present invention still further provides a first blood testing apparatus for carrying out the first blood testing method in accordance with the present invention. Specifically, the present invention still further provides a first blood testing apparatus, in which a blood test is performed by use of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, the apparatus comprising:

i) means for irradiating measuring light to a reagent area of the reagent layer, which reagent area has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum,

ii) means for detecting an intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area, and

iii) means for detecting an optical density of the reagent area in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area.

The first blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the measuring light is irradiated to the reagent area of the reagent layer of the blood testing unit, which reagent area has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, and to a mark area, which is provided with a mark representing information concerning the blood testing unit,

the intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the reagent area, and the intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the mark area, are detected,

the optical density of the reagent area is detected in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the reagent area, and

the information represented by the mark is read out in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the mark area.

In such cases, a common photodetector should preferably be utilized for both the detection of the optical density of the reagent area and the readout of the information represented by the mark.

Also, the first blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which region constitutes the reagent layer of the blood testing unit, is provided with the mark representing the information concerning the blood testing unit, and

the detection of the optical density of the reagent area and the readout of the information represented by the mark are performed simultaneously.

Alternatively, in lieu of the blood testing unit provided with the mark being utilized in the manner described above, the first blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that a dummy testing unit, which is provided with the mark representing the information concerning the blood testing unit, is located at a predetermined position, at which the blood testing unit is to be located, and

the detection of the optical density of the reagent area from the blood testing unit and the readout of the information, which is represented by the mark, from the dummy testing unit are performed one after the other at a certain time interval.

Further, the first blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the irradiation of the measuring light to the reagent area of the reagent layer and the detection of the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area are performed from the side of one surface of the reagent layer opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer, on which other surface the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has been supplied to the reagent area.

Furthermore, the first blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that a plurality of independent light intensity detecting operations are performed with respect to a plurality of subareas of the reagent area of the reagent layer, each of the independent light intensity detecting operations being performed for one of the plurality of the subareas of the reagent area,

results of the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of the reagent area are subjected to statistical processing, a light intensity value representative of the reagent area being obtained from the statistical processing, and

the thus obtained light intensity value representative of the reagent area is taken as the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area.

The present invention also provides a second blood testing apparatus for carrying out the second blood testing method in accordance with the present invention. Specifically, the present invention also provides a second blood testing apparatus, in which a blood test is performed by use of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, wherein the plurality of the different kinds of the reagents are supported at different positions on the reagent layer, the apparatus comprising:

i) means for irradiating measuring light to each of reagent areas of the reagent layer, each of which reagent areas has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the measuring light having a wavelength adapted to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas,

ii) means for detecting an intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas, the detection of the intensity of the reflected light being performed with respect to each of the reagent areas, and

iii) means for detecting an optical density of each of the reagent areas in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas.

The second blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the measuring light irradiated to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer is a light component, which has been obtained through light separation so as to have the wavelength corresponding to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas.

Alternatively, the second blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that light, which contains the measuring light having the wavelength corresponding to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas, is irradiated to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer, and

the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is detected through light separation into light components, the light separation being performed with respect to each of the reagent areas.

Also, the second blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that a plurality of independent measuring light irradiating operations are performed with respect to the blood testing unit, each of the independent measuring light irradiating operations being performed for one of the plurality of the reagent areas of the blood testing unit.

Further, the second blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is detected with a photodetector, which has been divided into pixels, and with respect to each of the reagent areas. In such cases, the intensity of the light having been reflected from one reagent area may be detected with one pixel among the pixels of the photodetector. Alternatively, the intensity of the light having been reflected from one reagent area may be detected with one group of pixels among the pixels of the photodetector.

Also, in such cases, the second blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention should particularly preferably be modified such that the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is collected by at least one lens (such as a distributed index lens), which is located so as to have a correspondence relationship with each of the reagent areas, and

the thus collected light is guided to the photodetector, which has been divided into the pixels.

In such cases, one of a plurality of lenses may be located so as to have a correspondence relationship with one reagent area. Alternatively, particularly, in cases where distributed index lenses are utilized as the plurality of the lenses, a group of lenses may be located so as to have a correspondence relationship with one reagent area.

Furthermore, the second blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that the irradiation of the measuring light to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer and the detection of the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas are performed from the side of one surface of the reagent layer opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer, on which other surface the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has been supplied to the reagent areas.

Also, the second blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention should preferably be modified such that a plurality of independent light intensity detecting operations are performed with respect to a plurality of subareas of each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer, each of the independent light intensity detecting operations being performed for one of the plurality of the subareas of each of the reagent areas,

results of the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of each of the reagent areas are subjected to statistical processing, a light intensity value representative of each of the reagent areas being obtained from the statistical processing, and

the thus obtained light intensity value representative of each of the reagent areas is taken as the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas.

With the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, the blood constituent separating section and the reagent layer, which contains the reagent capable of undergoing the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and forming the color as a result of the reaction, are located within the closed vessel. Therefore, with the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, the blood test is capable of being performed by introducing the blood sample into the closed vessel, irradiating the measuring light from the exterior of the closed vessel to the reagent layer, which has formed the color as a result of the reaction, and measuring the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent layer, the measurement being made from the exterior of the closed vessel. Specifically, the blood test is capable of being performed such that, after the blood sample has been introduced into the closed vessel, a person in charge of the blood test may not come in touch with the blood constituents, which are present within the closed vessel. Accordingly, with the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the person in charge of the blood test comes in touch with the blood sample and catches an infectious disease.

As described above, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention is constituted such that there is substantially no risk of persons coming in touch with the blood sample from the exterior of the blood testing unit. Therefore, after the blood testing unit has been used for the blood test, the blood testing unit may be processed with, for example, an autoclave, and may then be scrapped. Accordingly, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention is capable of being utilized as a disposable blood testing unit.

With the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, ordinarily, the blood test is capable of being performed on whole blood. The blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention is also applicable to the blood test on a blood sample, which contains at least either one of the blood plasma and the blood serum.

Also, with the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, the blood plasma and/or the blood serum is separated from the blood sample by the blood constituent separating section, which is located within the closed vessel. Therefore, with the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, particular operations for setting the blood testing unit on a centrifugal separator in order to separate the blood plasma and/or the blood serum from the blood sample, which operations require considerable time and labor, need not be performed, and the blood test is capable of being performed with a simple operation.

The blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the closed vessel comprises the outer vessel body, which has the bottom wall, and the inner vessel body, which has the bottom wall, and the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body are combined with each other, such that the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body are capable of sliding with respect to each other, while the space defined by the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body is being kept in the approximately hermetically sealed state, the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body thus defining the enclosed space at the interior in the manner such that the pressure in the enclosed space is capable of being reduced. In such cases, at least either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body is capable of being moved with respect to the other in the direction heading away from each other, and the pressure in the enclosed space is thus capable of being set at a negative pressure. In cases where the pressure in the enclosed space is thus set at the negative pressure, and the blood sampling needle, or the like, is then stuck in the blood introducing section, the blood sample is capable of being suck strongly into the enclosed space of the closed vessel. Alternatively, the blood sampling needle, or the like, may be stuck in the blood introducing section, and the pressure in the enclosed space may then be set at the negative pressure. Also, in this case, the blood sample is capable of being suck strongly into the enclosed space of the closed vessel. As a result, a predetermined amount of the blood sample is capable of being sampled quickly into the closed vessel, and the efficiency with which the blood test is performed is capable of being enhanced.

Also, in cases where the closed vessel is constituted of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body described above, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the blood introducing section is formed at the bottom wall of either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body. In such cases, for example, the closed vessel may be held in a state in which the blood introducing section is located on the side remote from the person in charge of the blood test, and the vessel body which is not provided with the blood introducing section, i.e. the vessel body which is located on the side close to the person in charge of the blood test, may be pulled toward the person in charge of the blood test. With the holding and pulling operation described above, the pressure in the enclosed space of the closed vessel is capable of being set at the negative pressure. The holding and pulling operation described above is markedly easy to perform, and therefore the introduction of the blood sample into the closed vessel is capable of being performed easily and reliably with the holding and pulling operation described above.

Further, in such cases, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the blood introducing section is formed at the bottom wall of the outer vessel body, and the bottom wall of the inner vessel body is formed at the end area of the inner vessel body, which end area is remote from the bottom wall of the outer vessel body. In such cases, the holding and pulling operation described above is capable of being performed such that the outer vessel body is held by one of the two hands of the person in charge of the blood test, and the inner vessel body is pulled by the other hand of the person in charge of the blood test. The holding and pulling operation is thus capable of being performed with a high efficiency. Also, since the bottom wall of the inner vessel body is formed at the end area of the inner vessel body, which end area is remote from the bottom wall of the outer vessel body, the distance between the bottom wall of the outer vessel body and the bottom wall of the inner vessel body is capable of being set to be comparatively long, and the volume of the enclosed space defined by the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body is capable of being set to be comparatively large. Therefore, in cases where it is assumed that the volume of the enclosed space is to be set at a predetermined value, the entire size of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body is capable of being set to be comparatively small. As a result, the size of the blood testing unit is capable of being set to be small.

Furthermore, in cases where the blood introducing section is formed at the bottom wall of either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the blood constituent separating membrane, which acts as the blood constituent separating section, is secured to the one vessel body having the bottom wall at which the blood introducing section is formed, such that the blood constituent separating membrane stands facing the bottom wall of the one vessel body. In such cases, the blood sample having been introduced through the blood introducing section is capable of being supplied immediately to the blood constituent separating membrane.

Also, in cases where the blood constituent separating membrane is secured to the one vessel body having the bottom wall at which the blood introducing section is formed, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the reagent layer is located such that the reagent layer is in contact with the surface of the blood constituent separating membrane, which surface is opposite to the surface that stands facing the blood introducing section. In such cases, the blood plasma and/or the blood serum having been separated from the blood sample is capable of being supplied immediately to the reagent layer.

Alternatively, in cases where the blood constituent separating membrane is secured to the one vessel body having the bottom wall at which the blood introducing section is formed, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the reagent layer is fitted to the other vessel body that is other than the one vessel body to which the blood constituent separating membrane is secured, such that the reagent layer is capable of being brought into contact with the blood constituent separating membrane. With the modification described above, in cases where at least either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body is moved with respect to the other in the direction heading toward each other, the reagent layer is capable of being brought into contact with the blood constituent separating membrane, and the blood plasma and/or the blood serum is thus capable of being supplied to the reagent layer.

Further, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the blood constituent separating section is secured tightly to the inner peripheral surface of either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body, to which one vessel body the blood constituent separating section is secured, without any gap being formed between the blood constituent separating section and the inner peripheral surface of the one vessel body over the entire perimeter of the blood constituent separating section. With the modification described above, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the blood sample (e.g. the whole blood), from which the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has not yet been separated, leaks through a gap between the blood constituent separating section and the inner peripheral surface of the outer vessel body or the inner vessel body toward the reagent layer. Therefore, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the blood sample adheres to the reagent layer and obstructs the blood test, or an inaccurate blood test is made due to the blood sample adhering to the reagent layer.

Furthermore, in cases where the closed vessel is constituted of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body described above, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that at least either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body is provided with the hole, through which air is capable of being introduced from the exterior to the interior of the one vessel body, and the one vessel body is provided with the sealing member for closing the hole. With the modification described above, in cases where oxygen is necessary for the reaction of the reagent with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the sealing member may be removed from the hole in order to introduce air into the vessel, and oxygen is thus capable of being supplied to the reagent layer. In cases where the hole is closed with the sealing member after air has been introduced into the vessel, there is no risk that the person in charge of the blood test will come in touch with the blood constituents within the vessel.

Also, in cases where the closed vessel is constituted of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body described above, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the O-ring is fitted onto the outer peripheral wall of the inner vessel body, the O-ring being capable of keeping the space, which is defined by the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body, in the approximately hermetically sealed state, and the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body are capable of sliding with respect to each other, while the O-ring fitted onto the outer peripheral wall of the inner vessel body is being in contact with the inner peripheral wall of the outer vessel body. With the modification described above, in cases where at least either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body is moved with respect to the other in the direction heading away from each other, and the pressure in the enclosed space is thus set at the negative pressure, the state of the negative pressure is capable of being set more reliably. Also, since the O-ring described above is provided, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the blood constituents leak through a gap between the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body to the exterior of the closed vessel.

Further, in cases where the closed vessel is constituted of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body described above, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the outer peripheral wall of the inner vessel body is provided with the engagement section, which projects outwardly from outer peripheral wall of the inner vessel body, the inner peripheral wall of the outer vessel body is provided with the engagement section, which projects inwardly from the inner peripheral wall of the outer vessel body, and the engagement section of the inner vessel body and the engagement section of the outer vessel body are capable of engaging with each other in order to prevent the inner vessel body and the outer vessel body from separating from each other. With the modification described above, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body separate by accident from each other, and the blood constituents leak from the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body to the exterior.

Furthermore, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body are provided with the locking means for keeping the states of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body when at least either one of the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body has been moved with respect to the other in the direction which increases the volume of the enclosed space defined at the interior by the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body, and the pressure in the enclosed space has thus been set at the negative pressure. With the modification described above, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body naturally return to the original states, i.e. the pressure in the enclosed space returns from the negative pressure to the atmospheric pressure. Therefore, the outer vessel body and the inner vessel body need not be held with the tips of the fingers of the person in charge of the blood test such that the two vessel bodies do not return to the original states. Accordingly, the operation for introducing the blood sample into the closed vessel is capable of being performed easily.

Also, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the closed vessel is the bag-shaped vessel made from the flexible sheet material, and the permeation member is accommodated within the bag-shaped vessel, the permeation member allowing the blood sample, which has been introduced through the blood introducing section into the bag-shaped vessel, to permeate through the permeation member toward the blood constituent separating section, and allowing the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has been separated by the blood constituent separating section from the blood sample, to permeate through the permeation member toward the reagent layer. With the modification described above, a plurality of bag-shaped vessels are capable of being laid up one upon another with little gap intervening between adjacent bag-shaped vessels. Therefore, effects of keeping the space for conveyance or storage of the bag-shaped vessels small are obtained.

In such cases, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the frame member is located so as to surround the outer periphery of the bag-shaped vessel, the frame member being adapted to draw and send the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has permeated through the permeation member, toward the reagent layer. With the modification described above, the blood plasma and/or the blood serum is capable of being reliably supplied to the reagent layer by use of the frame member.

Further, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the closed vessel is constituted of the plate-shaped member, and the fine path is formed within the plate-shaped member, the fine path causing the blood sample, which has been introduced through the blood introducing section into the plate-shaped member, to move by capillary action through the fine path toward the blood constituent separating section, and causing the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has been separated by the blood constituent separating section from the blood sample, to move by capillary action through the fine path toward the reagent layer. With the modification described above, the blood testing unit is capable of being formed so as to have a size and a thickness approximately identical with the size and the thickness of, for example, a credit card. In this manner, a blood testing unit, which is free from a risk of breakage and is capable of being carried easily, is capable of being obtained.

Furthermore, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the blood introducing section is constituted of the high-elasticity member, such as a rubber member, capable of acting such that the high-elasticity member ordinarily closes the closed vessel, and such that, when the blood sampling needle is stuck into the high-elasticity member, the high-elasticity member allows the tip of the blood sampling needle to penetrate through the high-elasticity member into the closed vessel, while the region between the outer peripheral wall of the blood sampling needle and the high-elasticity member is being kept in the approximately hermetically sealed state. With the modification described above, when the blood sampling needle is stuck into the high-elasticity member in order to introduce the blood sample into the closed vessel and is then pulled out from the high-elasticity member, the hole perforated by the blood sampling needle through the high-elasticity member closes naturally by the elasticity of the high-elasticity member. Therefore, in cases where the blood introducing section is constituted of the high-elasticity member, the blood constituents within the closed vessel are capable of being prevented from leaking from the blood introducing section to the exterior, and the infection preventing effects described above are capable of being enhanced.

Also, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the plurality of the different kinds of the reagents are supported at the different positions on the reagent layer. With the modification described above, measuring light beams, each of which has a wavelength adapted to one of the reagents, may be irradiated simultaneously or successively to the reagent layer. In this manner, the tests with respect to different substances contained in the blood plasma and/or the blood serum are capable of being performed quickly.

Further, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the blood constituent separating section is constituted of the porous structure material, which allows the blood plasma and/or the blood serum to pass therethrough and obstructs solid constituents from passing therethrough. With the modification described above, the structure for the separation of the blood plasma and/or the blood serum from the blood sample is capable of being kept simple. Therefore, the modification described above is advantageous for keeping the size of the blood testing unit small.

The porous structure material should preferably consist of the polysulfone membrane, which has a pore diameter falling within the range of 0.5 μm to 50 μm and should particularly preferably have a minimum pore diameter falling within the range of 1 μm to 5 μm. In such cases, the effects of separating the blood plasma and/or the blood serum from the blood sample, such as whole blood, are capable of being obtained more reliably, and the reliability of the blood test is capable of being enhanced.

Furthermore, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which region constitutes the reagent layer, contains the substance capable of generating heat in the presence of water. With the modification described above, when the blood plasma and/or the blood serum containing water spreads through the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the reagent layer is heated with heat generated by the aforesaid substance. Ordinarily, in cases where the blood test of this kind is performed, the blood testing unit is kept at a predetermined temperature by use of an incubator, and the blood plasma and/or the blood serum is caused to react with the reagent at a predetermined temperature higher than room temperature, e.g. at a temperature of approximately 37° C. In cases where the reagent layer is capable of being heated preliminarily with heat generated by the aforesaid substance in the manner described above, the time required for the blood testing unit to reach the predetermined temperature in the incubator is capable of being kept short, and therefore the blood test is capable of being performed with a high efficiency.

Also, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which region constitutes the reagent layer, is provided with the mark representing information concerning the blood testing unit. In such cases, the means for measuring the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent layer, which has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, is capable of being utilized also for the readout of the information represented by the mark, and the information concerning the blood testing unit is thus capable of being detected.

Further, the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the area of the reagent layer, which area is free from the reagent, is formed as the black plane, the plane of a color close to black, or the mirror plane. In such cases, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the measuring light having been scattered by the area of the reagent layer, which area is free from the reagent, is detected by the photo detecting means, and the accuracy of the blood test is affected adversely.

With the first blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention, in which the blood test is performed by use of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, the blood test is capable of being performed such that the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the person in charge of the blood test comes in touch with the blood sample and catches an infectious disease.

The first blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the measuring light is irradiated to the reagent area of the reagent layer of the blood testing unit, which reagent area has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, and to the mark area, which is provided with the mark representing information concerning the blood testing unit, and the intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the reagent area, and the intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the mark area, are detected. Also, the optical density of the reagent area is detected in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the reagent area, and the information represented by the mark is read out in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light, which has been reflected from the mark area. With the modification described above, for example, the optical density of the reagent area is capable of being corrected in accordance with the results of the readout of the information represented by the mark. Therefore, the blood test is capable of being performed with a high accuracy.

In such cases, the common photodetector may be utilized for both the detection of the optical density of the reagent area and the readout of the information represented by the mark. In this manner, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the cost becomes high due to the provision of mark read-out functions.

Also, the first blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the region for spreading the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which region constitutes the reagent layer of the blood testing unit, is provided with the mark representing the information concerning the blood testing unit, and the detection of the optical density of the reagent area and the readout of the information represented by the mark are performed simultaneously. With the modification described above, the time required to read out the information represented by the mark is capable of being kept short, and the time required to perform the blood test is capable of being kept short.

Further, the first blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the irradiation of the measuring light to the reagent area of the reagent layer and the detection of the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area are performed from the side of one surface of the reagent layer opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer, on which other surface the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has been supplied to the reagent area. With the modification described above, the means for irradiating the measuring light to the reagent area of the reagent layer and the means for detecting the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area do not interfere with the system for supplying the blood plasma and/or the blood serum. Therefore, the layout of the means for irradiating the measuring light and the means for detecting the intensity of the reflected light becomes easy.

Furthermore, the first blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations are performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of the reagent area of the reagent layer, each of the independent light intensity detecting operations being performed for one of the plurality of the subareas of the reagent area. Also, the results of the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of the reagent area are subjected to the statistical processing, the light intensity value representative of the reagent area being obtained from the statistical processing, and the thus obtained light intensity value representative of the reagent area is taken as the intensity of the light having been reflected from the reagent area. With the modification described above, in cases where nonuniformity occurs with the reaction of the reagent with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum within the reagent area, or in cases where fine dust, or the like, is present within the reagent area, adverse effects of specific results of the light intensity detection due to the nonuniformity in reaction, the fine dust, or the like, are capable of being eliminated, and the blood test is capable of being performed accurately.

With the second blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention, the blood test is performed by use of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, wherein the plurality of the different kinds of the reagents are supported at different positions on the reagent layer. Also, the measuring light is irradiated to each of reagent areas of the reagent layer, each of which reagent areas has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, the measuring light having the wavelength adapted to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas, the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is detected, the detection of the intensity of the reflected light being performed with respect to each of the reagent areas, and the optical density of each of the reagent areas is detected in accordance with the thus detected intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas. Therefore, the measuring light beams, each of which has a wavelength adapted to one of the reagents, may be irradiated simultaneously or successively at short time intervals to the reagent layer. In this manner, the tests with respect to different substances contained in the blood plasma and/or the blood serum are capable of being performed quickly.

The second blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the measuring light irradiated to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer is the light component, which has been obtained through light separation so as to have the wavelength corresponding to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas. Alternatively, the second blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the light, which contains the measuring light having the wavelength corresponding to the reagent contained in each of the reagent areas, is irradiated to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer, and the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is detected through light separation into light components, the light separation being performed with respect to each of the reagent areas. With each of the two modifications described above, the light beams having been reflected from the reagent areas are capable of being detected by being clearly discriminated from one another. Therefore, the blood tests with respect to a plurality of test purposes are capable of being performed accurately.

Further, the second blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is detected with the photodetector, which has been divided into the pixels, and with respect to each of the reagent areas. With the modification described above, the intensities of the light beams having been reflected from the reagent areas are capable of being detected accurately by being clearly discriminated from one another.

Also, in such cases, the second blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas is collected by at least one lens (such as the distributed index lens), which is located so as to have the correspondence relationship with each of the reagent areas, and the thus collected light is guided to the photodetector, which has been divided into the pixels. With the modification described above, the light beams having been reflected from the reagent areas are capable of being collected efficiently by the plurality of the independent lenses. Therefore, the intensities of the light beams having been reflected from the reagent areas are capable of being detected more accurately by being clearly discriminated from one another.

Furthermore, the second blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the irradiation of the measuring light to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer and the detection of the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas are performed from the side of one surface of the reagent layer opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer, on which other surface the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has been supplied to the reagent areas. With the modification described above, the means for irradiating the measuring light to each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer and the means for detecting the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas do not interfere with the system for supplying the blood plasma and/or the blood serum. Therefore, the layout of the means for irradiating the measuring light and the means for detecting the intensity of the reflected light becomes easy.

Also, the second blood testing method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention may be modified such that the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations are performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of each of the reagent areas of the reagent layer, each of the independent light intensity detecting operations being performed for one of the plurality of the subareas of each of the reagent areas. Also, the results of the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of each of the reagent areas are subjected to statistical processing, the light intensity value representative of each of the reagent areas being obtained from the statistical processing, and the thus obtained light intensity value representative of each of the reagent areas is taken as the intensity of the light having been reflected from each of the reagent areas. With the modification described above, in cases where nonuniformity occurs with the reaction of the reagent with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum within each of the reagent areas, or in cases where fine dust, or the like, is present within each of the reagent areas, adverse effects of specific results of the light intensity detection due to the nonuniformity in reaction, the fine dust, or the like, are capable of being eliminated, and the blood test is capable of being performed accurately.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view showing a first embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 2 is a partially cutaway side view showing the blood testing unit of FIG. 1,

FIG. 3 is a plan view showing a reagent layer of the blood testing unit of FIG. 1,

FIG. 4 is a partially cutaway side view showing the blood testing unit of FIG. 1 in a state in which a blood sample is introduced into the blood testing unit,

FIG. 5 is a perspective view showing a first embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 6 is a partially cutaway side view showing the blood testing unit of FIG. 5,

FIG. 7 is a partially cutaway side view showing a second embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 8 is a partially cutaway side view showing a third embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention and a second embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 9 is a partially cutaway side view showing a third embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 10 is a partially cutaway side view showing a fourth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 11 is a perspective view showing a fourth embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 12 is a perspective view showing a major part of a fifth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 13 is a perspective view showing a major part of a sixth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 14 is a perspective view showing a fifth embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 15 is a perspective view showing a sixth embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 16 is a perspective view showing the blood testing unit of FIG. 15 in a different state,

FIG. 17 is a perspective view showing a seventh embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 18 is a plan view showing a different example of the reagent layer constituting the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 19 is a perspective view showing a further different example of the reagent layer constituting the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 20 is a perspective view showing an eighth embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 21 is a front view showing a major part of a seventh embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 22 is a perspective view showing examples of dummy units, which may be utilized in the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 23 is a perspective view showing a different example of a dummy unit, which may be utilized in the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention,

FIG. 24 is a perspective view showing a major part of an eighth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention, and

FIG. 25 is a perspective view showing a major part of a ninth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention will hereinbelow be described in further detail with reference to the accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view showing a blood testing unit 10, which is a first embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention. FIG. 2 is a partially cutaway side view showing the blood testing unit 10 of FIG. 1. As illustrated in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2, the blood testing unit 10 comprises a circular cylinder-shaped outer vessel body 11, whose lower end area in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 is open, and a circular cylinder-shaped inner vessel body 21, which has a bottom wall 23 at a lower end area in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2. By way of example, each of the outer vessel body 11 and the inner vessel body 21 is made from a transparent synthetic resin. The outer vessel body 11 has a size of, for example, an outer diameter of 15 mm×a height of 30 mm. The inner vessel body 21 has a size of, for example, an outer diameter of 10 mm×a height of 30 mm. Alternatively, each of the outer vessel body 11 and the inner vessel body 21 may be made from glass, or the like.

The outer vessel body 11 has an upward-facing bottom wall 14 at an end area on the upper side in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2. The upward-facing bottom wall 14 is provided with a circular opening 13. Ordinarily, the opening 13 is closed with a rubber film 15, which is adhered to an inner surface of the upward-facing bottom wall 14. As will be described later, the rubber film 15 constitutes the blood introducing section. Also, a circular blood constituent separating membrane 16 is formed with an insert molding process and held within the outer vessel body 11. The blood constituent separating membrane 16 is constituted of a porous structure material. The porous structure material acts such that, when a blood sample is supplied to the porous structure material, the porous structure material allows the blood plasma and/or the blood serum to pass therethrough and obstructs solid constituents from passing therethrough. In this embodiment, by way of example, a polysulfone membrane having a pore diameter falling within the range of 0.5 μm to 50 μm is utilized as the porous structure material. Further, an annular engagement section 17 is formed on an inner peripheral wall of the outer vessel body 11. The annular engagement section 17 projects inwardly from the inner peripheral wall of the outer vessel body 11 and at a position close to an open end of the outer vessel body 11, which open end is formed at the lower end of the outer vessel body 11 in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2.

A lower end of the inner vessel body 21 in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 is closed by the bottom wall 23. An upper end of the inner vessel body 21 is open, and a reagent layer 24 is fitted to the upper end of the inner vessel body 21. Also, an O-ring 25 is fitted onto an outer peripheral wall of the inner vessel body 21 and at a position comparatively close to the upper end of the inner vessel body 21. Further, an air introducing hole 26, which communicates the interior of the inner vessel body 21 and the exterior of the inner vessel body 21 to each other, is formed through the peripheral wall of the inner vessel body 21. The air introducing hole 26 is closed by a sealing member 27, which is adhered to the outer peripheral wall surface of the inner vessel body 21.

By way of example, the reagent layer 24 comprises a nitrocellulose porous membrane having a pore diameter of 0.45 μm (supplied by Millipore Corporation), two glucose detecting spots, which are of the pigment types and have the absorption characteristics such that the maximum absorption wavelength is in the vicinity of 505 nm, and two uric acid detecting spots, which are of the pigment types and have the absorption characteristics such that the maximum absorption wavelength is in the vicinity of 650 nm, the four detecting spots being formed on the nitrocellulose porous membrane. The reagent layer 24 may be prepared in the manner described below. Specifically, for example, an MES buffer solution, which contains glucose oxidase, peroxidase, 1,7-dihydroxy naphthalene, and 4-amino antipyrine and has been adjusted to a pH value falling within the range of 5.5 to 6.5, is spotted to two positions on the nitrocellulose porous membrane. Also, a buffer solution, which contains uricase, peroxidase, and a diallyl imidazole type of leuco-pigment, is spotted to two positions on the nitrocellulose porous membrane. In this manner, four spots (i.e., two spots arrayed in the vertical direction×two spots arrayed in the horizontal direction) are formed on the nitrocellulose porous membrane. The thus formed four spots are then dried, and the reagent layer 24 is thus obtained. Since the support of the reagent layer 24 is formed from the nitrocellulose porous membrane described above, when the blood plasma and/or the blood serum is supplied to the reagent layer 24, the blood plasma and/or the blood serum spreads in the spread direction of the reagent layer 24.

FIG. 3 is a plan view showing the reagent layer 24. In FIG. 3, reference numerals 24 a, 24 a represent the two glucose detecting spots, and reference numerals 24 b, 24 b represent the two uric acid detecting spots. In this embodiment, the reagent layer 24 is also provided with a bar code 24 c acting as a mark, which represents information concerning the blood testing unit 10, i.e. a production serial number of the blood testing unit 10, a kind of the blood testing unit 10, or the like. The bar code 24 c will later be described in detail.

As illustrated in FIG. 2, the outer vessel body 11 and the inner vessel body 21 are combined with each other in order to constitute the blood testing unit 10. When the inner vessel body 21 is accommodated within the outer vessel body 11, the O-ring 25 of the inner vessel body 21 and the annular engagement section 17 of the outer vessel body 11 interfere slightly with each other. However, in cases where the inner vessel body 21 is pushed slightly forcibly into the outer vessel body 11, the peripheral wall of the outer vessel body 11 and the O-ring 25 of the inner vessel body 21 undergo elastic deformation, and the O-ring 25 is thus capable of passing over the annular engagement section 17.

In the state shown in FIG. 2, the inner vessel body 21 is capable of moving in the major axis direction, i.e. vertically in FIG. 2, within the outer vessel body 11. At this time, the inner vessel body 21 slides on the inner peripheral wall of the outer vessel body 11 with the O-ring 25 intervening therebetween. Therefore, an enclosed space defined by the inner vessel body 21 and the outer vessel body 11 is formed. Specifically, in this embodiment, the outer vessel body 11 and the inner vessel body 21 co-operate to constitute a closed vessel, such that the interior of the closed vessel is kept in a water-tight state with respect to the exterior.

Also, particularly, the enclosed space described above is kept in an approximately hermetically sealed state with respect to the exterior by the effects of the O-ring 25. Therefore, when the inner vessel body 21 is pulled downwardly, i.e. in the direction heading away from the upward-facing bottom wall 14 of the outer vessel body 11, from the state shown in FIG. 2, the pressure within the enclosed space is reduced to a negative pressure. When the inner vessel body 21 is thus pulled and moved downwardly by a predetermined distance, the O-ring 25 of the inner vessel body 21 and the annular engagement section 17 of the outer vessel body 11 come into engagement with each other. Therefore, the inner vessel body 21 is prevented from separating from the outer vessel body 11.

How a blood test is performed by use of the blood testing unit 10 described above will be described hereinbelow. Firstly, how an operation for taking a blood sample is performed will be described hereinbelow. In order for the blood sample to be taken, the inner vessel body 21 is pulled in the direction heading away from the upward-facing bottom wall 14 of the outer vessel body 11 in the manner described above, and the pressure within the enclosed space, which is defined by the inner vessel body 21 and the outer vessel body 11, is thus set at a negative pressure. The thus set state is illustrated in FIG. 4. Thereafter, as illustrated in FIG. 4, one tip of a blood sampling needle 30, whose other tip has been stuck in, for example, the upper arm of a human body, is stuck through the rubber film 15 of the outer vessel body 11 into the enclosed space described above. As a result, since the pressure within the enclosed space has been set at the negative pressure, whole blood 31 passes through the blood sampling needle 30 and is thus introduced into the enclosed space. As illustrated in FIG. 4, the whole blood 31 spreads over the blood constituent separating membrane 16. Solid constituents of the whole blood 31 are caught on the surface of the blood constituent separating membrane 16, and the blood plasma and/or the blood serum passes through the blood constituent separating membrane 16.

There is a correlation between the amount of the whole blood 31, which is taken into the blood testing unit 10 in the manner described above, and the distance by which the inner vessel body 21 is pulled downwardly from the state shown in FIG. 2. The correlation has been confirmed with blood sampling experiments, which were conducted under conditions having been set to be uniform with the cases where the whole blood 31 is taken by use of the blood testing unit 10 in the manner described above. Specifically, for example, in cases where the distance by which the inner vessel body 21 is pulled downwardly is set at 1 cm, 2 cm, and 4 cm, the amount of the whole blood 31 taken into the blood testing unit 10 is capable of being set at 10 μl (microliter), 20 μl, and 40 μl, respectively.

In this embodiment, as described above, the pressure within the enclosed space defined by the inner vessel body 21 and the outer vessel body 11 is set at the negative pressure, and thereafter the blood sampling needle 30 is stuck through the rubber film 15. Alternatively, after the blood sampling needle 30 has been stuck through the rubber film 15, the inner vessel body 21 may be pulled downwardly, and the pressure within the enclosed space may thus be set at the negative pressure.

After the whole blood 31 has been supplied into the blood testing unit 10 in the manner described above, the blood sampling needle 30 is pulled out from the rubber film 15. At this time, the hole made by the blood sampling needle 30 remains in the rubber film 15. However, since the rubber film 15 has a high elasticity, in so far as the hole is left as it is, the hole is kept in the closed state by the high elasticity of the rubber film 15, and therefore the problems do not occur in that the whole blood 31 leaks through the hole to the exterior of the blood testing unit 10. Also, when the blood sampling needle 30 is being stuck through the rubber film 15, the boundary between the outer peripheral wall of the blood sampling needle 30 and the rubber film 15 is kept in an approximately hermetically sealed state by the high elasticity of the rubber film 15. Therefore, the region within the blood testing unit 10 is kept in the negative pressure state until the whole blood 31 has been introduced into the blood testing unit 10. When the whole blood 31 has been introduced into the blood testing unit 10, the pressure within the blood testing unit 10 returns to the atmospheric pressure.

How a photometric operation is performed will be described hereinbelow. FIG. 5 is a perspective view showing a blood testing apparatus 40, which is a first embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention. FIG. 6 is a partially cutaway side view showing the blood testing unit 40 of FIG. 5. As illustrated in FIG. 5 and FIG. 6, the blood testing apparatus 40 comprises a unit receiving section 42 constituted of a circular cylinder-shaped hole for receiving the blood testing unit 10, which hole is open at a casing top surface 41. The blood testing unit 10 is accommodated in the unit receiving section 42 with the inner vessel body 21 facing down. Thereafter, the outer vessel body 11 is slightly pushed down and moved with respect to the inner vessel body 21. As a result, the blood constituent separating membrane 16 of the outer vessel body 11 comes into contact with the reagent layer 24 of the inner vessel body 21. This state is illustrated in FIG. 6. Since the reagent layer 24 has been formed in parallel with the blood constituent separating membrane 16, the entire area of the reagent layer 24 and the entire area of the blood constituent separating membrane 16 come into contact with each other.

As described above, solid constituents 31 a of the whole blood 31 are caught on the upper side of the blood constituent separating membrane 16, and the blood plasma and/or the blood serum passes through the blood constituent separating membrane 16. Therefore, when the reagent layer 24 of the inner vessel body 21 comes into contact with the blood constituent separating membrane 16 in the manner described above, the blood plasma and/or the blood serum spreads over the reagent layer 24. Each of the buffer solutions (i.e., the reagents) of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, which have been formed on the reagent layer 24, undergoes a reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and forms a color as a result of the reaction.

As illustrated in detail in FIG. 6, the blood testing apparatus 40 comprises a light source unit 44 for producing measuring light 43. The blood testing apparatus 40 also comprises a light guide member 45 for guiding the measuring light 43 having been produced by the light source unit 44. The light guide member 45 may be constituted of, for example, an optical fiber. The blood testing apparatus 40 further comprises a filter unit 46, which is located at an intermediate point of the light guide member 45 and selects the wavelength of the measuring light 43. The blood testing apparatus 40 still further comprises a light intensity measuring section 47, which is located within the light guide member 45 at a position in the vicinity of a light radiating end area of the light guide member 45.

The light source unit 44 comprises a light emitting diode, which produces light having wavelengths in the vicinity of 505 nm, and a light emitting diode, which produces light having wavelengths in the vicinity of 650 nm. Either one of the two light emitting diodes is actuated selectively. The filter unit 46 comprises a filter, which transmits only light having a wavelength of 505 nm, and a filter, which transmits only light having a wavelength of 650 nm. Either one of the two filters is selectively inserted into an optical path within the light guide member 45. In lieu of the two light emitting diodes described above being utilized, a white light emitting diode for producing white light, which contains light having wavelengths in the vicinity of 505 nm and light having wavelengths in the vicinity of 650 nm, may be utilized.

The filter selecting operation of the filter unit 46 and the light emitting diode selecting and actuating operation are controlled by a common control section 53 in a manner interlocked with each other. Specifically, in cases where the light emitting diode for producing the light having the wavelengths in the vicinity of 505 nm is actuated, the filter, which transmits only the light having the wavelength of 505 nm, is inserted into the optical path. Also, in cases where the light emitting diode for producing the light having the wavelengths in the vicinity of 650 nm is actuated, the filter, which transmits only the light having the wavelength of 650 nm, is inserted into the optical path.

The light guide member 45 is located such that the light radiating end area of the light guide member 45 stands facing the inner vessel body 21 of the blood testing unit 10, which has been accommodated in the unit receiving section 42 of the blood testing apparatus 40.

The light intensity measuring section 47 comprises an objective lens 48 for operating such that, when the measuring light 43 is irradiated to the reagent layer 24 of the inner vessel body 21 and is reflected as reflected light 43R from the reagent layer 24, the objective lens 48 collects the reflected light 43R. The light intensity measuring section 47 also comprises an image forming lens 49 for forming an image of the reflected light 43R, which has been collected by the objective lens 48. The light intensity measuring section 47 further comprises a two-dimensional photodetector 50 located at the position at which the image of the reflected light 43R is formed. The two-dimensional photodetector 50 may be constituted of a CCD image sensor, or the like.

How the blood testing apparatus 40 having the constitution described above operates will be described hereinbelow. When the blood testing unit 10 has been accommodated in the unit receiving section 42, the light source unit 44 and the filter unit 46 are controlled by the control section 53 in the manner described above, and the measuring light 43 having the wavelength of 505 nm and the measuring light 43 having the wavelength of 650 nm are irradiated alternately at intervals of, for example, 0.1 second through the light guide member 45 to the reagent layer 24 of the inner vessel body 21. In FIG. 6, of the measuring light 43 radiated out in a divergent light state from the light radiating end area of the light guide member 45, only the light components traveling toward the areas of the reagent layer 24, at which areas the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b have been formed, are illustrated. The intensity of the reflected light 43R having been reflected from the reagent layer 24 is detected by the two-dimensional photodetector 50.

Each of the buffer solutions (i.e., the reagents) of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, which have been formed on the reagent layer 24, has formed the color as a result of the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum to be tested. The optical density of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b is measured at intervals of 0.1 second. Specifically, the two-dimensional photodetector 50 has been divided into pixels and is capable of detecting the intensity of the reflected light 43R with respect to each of fine points on the reagent layer 24. Therefore, the optical density of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, which optical density changes with the passage of time, is capable of being measured in accordance with a photo detection signal S obtained from the two-dimensional photodetector 50.

In order for the optical density of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b to be measured in accordance with the photo detection signal S obtained from the two-dimensional photodetector 50, it is necessary that a correspondence relationship between the positions on a photo detecting surface of the two-dimensional photodetector 50 and the positions on the reagent layer 24 is specified. For such purposes, the inner vessel body 21 may be accommodated always in a predetermined orientation in the unit receiving section 42. Specifically, for example, a position matching mark may be attached to one position on the outer peripheral wall of the inner vessel body 21, and a position matching mark may be attached to one position on the inner peripheral wall of the unit receiving section 42. Also, the blood testing unit 10 may be accommodated in the unit receiving section 42 such that the positions of the two position matching marks coincide with each other.

The photo detection signal S, which represents the intensity of the reflected light 43R with respect to each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, is fed into a signal processing section 51. In accordance with the intensity of the reflected light 43R, the signal processing section 51 calculates the optical density of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b. Also, the signal processing section 51 previously stores information representing calibration curves, which have been formed in accordance with results of experiments and represent relationships between concentrations of glucose and uric acid and the optical densities of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b. In accordance with the calibration curves, the signal processing section 51 calculates the concentrations of glucose and uric acid from the optical densities of the detecting spots, which optical densities change with the passage of time. Further, the signal processing section 51 feeds a signal Sd, which represents the concentrations of glucose and uric acid having thus been calculated, into a displaying section 52. In the displaying section 52, the concentrations of glucose and uric acid represented by the signal Sd are displayed as the test results. The conversion of the intensity of the reflected light 43R into the optical density is made by utilizing optical calculation techniques, such as a Lambert-Beer's law and a diffuse reflection formula.

Certain kinds of reagents constituting the detecting spots of the reagent layer 24 require supply of oxygen, such that the reagents are capable of undergoing reactions with substances to be detected, or such that the reagents are capable of completing the reactions with substances to be detected within a predetermined reaction time. In cases where such kinds of reagents are utilized, after the whole blood 31 has been introduced into the blood testing unit 10 in the manner described above, the sealing member 27 having been adhered to the outer peripheral wall surface of the inner vessel body 21 is removed from the outer peripheral wall surface of the inner vessel body 21. As a result, the air introducing hole 26 having been closed by the sealing member 27 is opened, and oxygen contained in air is supplied through the air introducing hole 26 to the region within the inner vessel body 21, i.e. to the reagent layer 24. In cases where the air introducing hole 26 is again closed by the sealing member 27 after air has been introduced into the inner vessel body 21, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the person in charge of the blood test comes in touch with the blood constituents within the blood testing unit 10.

In lieu of the sheet-shaped sealing member 27 described above being utilized, a plug-shaped sealing member for closing the air introducing hole 26 may be utilized. In such cases, after air has been introduced into the inner vessel body 21, the air introducing hole 26 may again be closed by the plug-shaped sealing member. In this manner, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the person in charge of the blood test comes in touch with the blood constituents within the blood testing unit 10.

Ordinarily, in cases where the blood test is performed, the blood testing unit 10 is kept at a predetermined temperature by use of an incubator (not shown), and the blood plasma and/or the blood serum is caused to react with the reagent at a predetermined temperature higher than room temperature, e.g. at a temperature of 37° C. In such cases, a substance capable of generating heat in the presence of water should preferably be added to the aforesaid nitrocellulose porous membrane, which constitutes the reagent layer 24 and allows the blood plasma and/or the blood serum to spread. In such cases, when the blood plasma and/or the blood serum containing water spreads through the reagent layer 24, the reagent layer 24 is heated with heat generated by the aforesaid substance. In cases where the reagent layer is capable of being heated preliminarily with heat generated by the aforesaid substance in the manner described above, the time required for the blood testing unit 10 to reach the predetermined temperature in the incubator is capable of being kept short, and therefore the blood test is capable of being performed with a high efficiency.

As the substance capable of generating heat in the presence of water, an alumino-silicate, such as zeolite, slaked lime, a mixture of iron powder and an oxidizing agent, or the like, may be employed.

In the first embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention, the light guide member 45 is located such that the light radiating end area of the light guide member 45 is in contact with a lower surface 42 a of a bottom plate of the unit receiving section 42. Therefore, the distance between the objective lens 48 of the light intensity measuring section 47 and the reagent layer 24, the distance between the image forming lens 49 of the light intensity measuring section 47 and the reagent layer 24, and the distance between the two-dimensional photodetector 50 of the light intensity measuring section 47 and the reagent layer 24 are kept at predetermined values.

In the first embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention, the concentrations of the specific constituents of the blood plasma and/or the blood serum are calculated in accordance with the calibration curves in the manner described. Alternatively, instead of the concentrations of the specific constituents of the blood plasma and/or the blood serum being calculated, the signal processing section 51 may perform only the processing for calculating the optical density of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b of the reagent layer 24, and the calculated optical densities may be displayed in the displaying section 52. As another alternative, the signal processing section 51 may feed out a signal, which represents the calculated optical densities, to the exterior.

As described above, the blood testing unit 10, which is the first embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, comprises the closed vessel, which is constituted of the outer vessel body 11 and the inner vessel body 21, the blood constituent separating membrane 16, and the reagent layer 24, which are located within the closed vessel. Therefore, with the blood testing unit 10, the blood test is capable of being performed by introducing the whole blood 31 into the closed vessel, irradiating the measuring light 43 from the exterior of the closed vessel to the reagent layer 24, which has formed the color as a result of the reaction, and measuring the intensity of the reflected light 43R having been reflected from the reagent layer 24, the measurement being made from the exterior of the closed vessel. Specifically, the blood test is capable of being performed such that, after the blood sample has been introduced into the closed vessel, the person in charge of the blood test may not come in touch with the blood constituents, which are present within the closed vessel. Accordingly, with the blood testing unit 10, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the person in charge of the blood test comes in touch with the blood sample and catches an infectious disease.

As described above, the blood testing unit 10 is constituted such that there is substantially no risk of persons coming in touch with the blood sample from the exterior of the blood testing unit 10. Therefore, after the blood testing unit 10 has been used for the blood test, the blood testing unit 10 may be processed with, for example, an autoclave, and may then be scrapped. Accordingly, the blood testing unit 10 is capable of being utilized as a disposable blood testing unit.

Whether the blood testing unit 10 has already been used or has not yet been used for the blood test is capable of being confirmed by investigating whether each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b of the reagent layer 24 has formed or has not formed the predetermined color, or whether a mark due to the blood sampling needle 30 is or is not left on the rubber film 15. Alternatively, such that it is capable of being confirmed more accurately whether the blood testing unit 10 has already been used or has not yet been used for the blood test, the reagent capable of undergoing the reaction with the blood sample and forming the color as a result of the reaction may be utilized such that letters, such as “used,” may appear on the reagent layer 24 as a result of the reaction.

Also, with the blood testing unit 10, the blood plasma and/or the blood serum is separated from the whole blood 31 by the blood constituent separating membrane 16, which is located within the closed vessel. Therefore, with the blood testing unit 10, particular operations for setting the blood testing unit 10 on a centrifugal separator in order to separate the blood plasma and/or the blood serum from the whole blood 31, which operations require considerable time and labor, need not be performed, and the blood test is capable of being performed with a simple operation.

Particularly, with the blood testing unit 10, as described above, at least either one of the outer vessel body 11 and the inner vessel body 21 may be moved with respect to the other in the direction heading away from each other, and the pressure in the enclosed space is thus capable of being set at the negative pressure. In cases where the pressure in the enclosed space within the blood testing unit 10 is thus set at the negative pressure, and the blood sampling needle 30 is then stuck through the rubber film 15, the whole blood 31 is capable of being suck strongly into the enclosed space of the closed vessel. Alternatively, the blood sampling needle 30 may be stuck through the rubber film 15, and the pressure in the enclosed space may then be set at the negative pressure. Also, in this case, the blood sample is capable of being suck strongly into the enclosed space of the closed vessel. As a result, a predetermined amount of the whole blood 31 is capable of being sampled quickly into the closed vessel, and the efficiency with which the blood test is performed is capable of being enhanced.

Further, with the blood testing unit 10, the blood constituent separating membrane 16 is constituted of the porous structure material, which allows the blood plasma and/or the blood serum to pass therethrough and obstructs the solid constituents from passing therethrough. Therefore, the structure for the separation of the blood plasma and/or the blood serum from the whole blood 31 is capable of being kept simple. Accordingly, the blood testing unit 10 is advantageous for keeping the size of the blood testing unit small. Furthermore, particularly, the polysulfone membrane, which has the pore diameter falling within the range described above, is utilized as the porous structure material. In such cases, the effects of separating the blood plasma and/or the blood serum from the whole blood 31 are capable of being obtained more reliably, and the reliability of the blood test is capable of being enhanced.

Also, with the blood testing unit 10, the blood constituent separating membrane 16 is formed with the insert molding process and is thus combined with the outer vessel body 11 into an integral body. Therefore, the blood constituent separating membrane 16 is secured tightly to the inner peripheral surface of the outer vessel body 11 without any gap being formed between the blood constituent separating membrane 16 and the inner peripheral surface of the outer vessel body 11 over the entire perimeter of the blood constituent separating membrane 16. In such cases, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the whole blood 31, from which the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has not yet been separated, leaks through a gap between the blood constituent separating membrane 16 and the inner peripheral surface of the outer vessel body 11 toward the reagent layer 24. Accordingly, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the whole blood 31 adheres to the reagent layer 24 and obstructs the blood test, or an inaccurate blood test is made due to the whole blood 31 adhering to the reagent layer 24.

Further, with the blood testing unit 10, the rubber film 15 constituting the blood introducing section is formed at the upward-facing bottom wall 14 of the outer vessel body 11. In such cases, for example, the blood testing unit 10 may be held in a state in which the rubber film 15 is located on the side remote from the person in charge of the blood test, and the inner vessel body 21 may be pulled toward the person in charge of the blood test. With the holding and pulling operation described above, the pressure in the enclosed space of the blood testing unit 10 is capable of being set at the negative pressure. The holding and pulling operation described above is markedly easy to perform, and therefore the introduction of the blood sample into the blood testing unit 10 is capable of being performed easily and reliably with the holding and pulling operation described above.

Furthermore, with the blood testing unit 10, the bottom wall 23 of the inner vessel body 21 is formed at the end area of the inner vessel body 21, which end area is remote from the upward-facing bottom wall 14 of the outer vessel body 11. Therefore, the distance between the upward-facing bottom wall 14 of the outer vessel body 11 and the bottom wall 23 of the inner vessel body 21 is capable of being set to be comparatively long, and the volume of the enclosed space defined by the outer vessel body 11 and the inner vessel body 21 is capable of being set to be comparatively large. Accordingly, in cases where it is assumed that the volume of the enclosed space is to be set at a predetermined value, the entire size of the outer vessel body 11 and the inner vessel body 21 is capable of being set to be comparatively small. As a result, the size of the blood testing unit is capable of being set to be small.

Also, with the blood testing unit 10, the blood constituent separating membrane 16 is secured to the outer vessel body 11, in which the rubber film 15 acting as the blood introducing section is secured to the upward-facing bottom wall 14, such that the blood constituent separating membrane 16 stands facing the upward-facing bottom wall 14 of the outer vessel body 11. Therefore, the whole blood 31 having been introduced through the rubber film 15 is capable of being supplied immediately to the blood constituent separating membrane 16.

Further, with the blood testing unit 10, the outer vessel body 11 and the inner vessel body 21 are capable of sliding with respect to each other, while the O-ring 25 fitted onto the outer peripheral wall of the inner vessel body 21 is being in contact with the inner peripheral wall of the outer vessel body 11. Therefore, in cases where the inner vessel body 21 is moved with respect to the outer vessel body 11 in the direction heading away from the outer vessel body 11, and the pressure in the enclosed space is thus set at the negative pressure, the state of the negative pressure is capable of being set more reliably. Also, since the O-ring 25 described above is provided, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the blood constituents leak through a gap between the inner vessel body 21 and the outer vessel body 11 to the exterior of the blood testing unit 10.

Furthermore, with the blood testing unit 10, the O-ring 25 of the inner vessel body 21 and the annular engagement section 17 of the outer vessel body 11 are capable of engaging with each other in order to prevent the inner vessel body 21 from separating from the outer vessel body 11. Therefore, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the inner vessel body 21 and the outer vessel body 11 separate by accident from each other, and the blood constituents leak from the inner vessel body 21 and the outer vessel body 11 to the exterior. In this embodiment, the O-ring 25 is utilized as the engagement section for engaging with the annular engagement section 17 of the outer vessel body 11. Alternatively, a projecting section may be formed on the outer peripheral surface of the inner vessel body 21 and at a position lower than the position of the O-ring 25 in FIG. 2 and may be utilized as the engagement section of the inner vessel body 21.

Also, with the blood testing unit 10, the plurality of the different kinds of the reagents, each of which is capable of undergoing the reaction with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and forming the color as a result of the reaction, are supported at the different positions as the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b on the reagent layer 24. Therefore, in cases where the operation for supplying the blood plasma and/or the blood serum to the reagent layer 24 is performed only one time, the blood plasma and/or the blood serum is capable of being supplied to the plurality of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b. Accordingly, the efficiency with which the blood test is performed is capable of being enhanced.

Further, in this embodiment of the blood testing unit 10, the reagent layer 24 is provided with the multiple kinds of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, which are capable of undergoing reactions with different substances contained in the blood plasma and/or the blood serum. Also, the blood testing apparatus 40, which is the first embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention, is constituted such that the measuring light beams, each of which has a wavelength adapted to one of the reagents contained in the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, are irradiated successively to the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b. Therefore, with the blood testing apparatus 40, the tests with respect to the different substances (in this case, glucose and uric acid) contained in the blood plasma and/or the blood serum are capable of being performed quickly. Alternatively, the blood testing apparatus 40 may be constituted such that the measuring light beams are irradiated simultaneously to the multiple kinds of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, and the intensities of the light beams having been reflected from the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b are measured simultaneously. The alternative constitution of the blood testing apparatus 40 is advantageous for enhancing the efficiency of the blood test.

Also, with the blood testing apparatus 40, the two-dimensional photodetector 50, which detects the image of the reagent layer 24 of the blood testing unit 10, is employed as the means for detecting the optical densities of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b. Further, the bar code 24 c attached to the reagent layer 24 as illustrated in FIG. 3 is capable of being read out by the two-dimensional photodetector 50. Therefore, in cases where the photo detection signal S, which has been obtained from the two-dimensional photodetector 50, is processed appropriately in the signal processing section 51, and the signal having been obtained from the processing is fed into the displaying section 52, the information concerning the blood testing unit 10, i.e. the production serial number of the blood testing unit 10, the kind of the blood testing unit 10, or the like, which information is represented by the bar code 24 c, is capable of being displayed in the displaying section 52. Furthermore, correction of the test results is capable of being made in accordance with correction information with respect to each of production lots of blood testing units 10, 10, . . . , which correction information may be represented by the bar code 24 c.

Besides the production serial number of the blood testing unit 10 and the kind of the blood testing unit 10, the information represented by the bar code 24 c may also contain information representing the production lot number, information representing the calibration curves, information for correction with respect to interfering substances, information for correction with respect to temperature, information for correction with respect to liquid quantity, and the like.

The bar code 24 c may be an ordinary one-dimensional bar code. Alternatively, the bar code 24 c may be a two-dimensional bar code, or the like. Also, as the mark representing the information concerning the blood testing unit 10, a mark other than the bar code 24 c may be employed.

In order for an accurate calculation of the optical density to be made from the photo detection signal S, which represents the intensity of the reflected light 43R having been reflected from each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, in the manner described above, it is necessary to perform a correcting operation, wherein values of the photo detection signal S detected in cases where the reflectivity is set at 100% and 0% are obtained, and the photo detection signal S, which represents the intensity of the reflected light 43R having been reflected from each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, is corrected in accordance with the aforesaid values of the photo detection signal S. FIG. 22 is a perspective view showing examples of dummy units, which may be utilized for the correcting operation described above.

Specifically, in this case, a dummy unit 10W and a dummy unit 10K, each of which has a shape identical with the shape of the blood testing unit 10 and is capable of being accommodated in the unit receiving section 42 of the blood testing apparatus 40, are utilized. The dummy unit 10W comprises an outer vessel body 11W, an inner vessel body 21W, and a white plate 23W, which is located at the position corresponding to the position of the reagent layer 24 of the blood testing unit 10. Also, the dummy unit 10K comprises an outer vessel body 11K, an inner vessel body 21K, and a black plate 23K, which is located at the position corresponding to the position of the reagent layer 24 of the blood testing unit 10. Each of the dummy unit 10W and the dummy unit 10K is accommodated in the unit receiving section 42 of the blood testing apparatus 40, and a photometric operation is performed in the same manner as in the photometric operation for the blood testing unit 10. In this manner, the values of the photo detection signal S detected in cases where the reflectivity is set at 100% and 0% are capable of being obtained. The thus obtained values of the photo detection signal S may be stored in storage means (not shown) and utilized for the correcting operation described above.

As illustrated in FIG. 22, it is also possible to utilize a dummy unit 10D comprising an outer vessel body 11D, an inner vessel body 21D, and a bar code surface 23D, on which a bar code of the same type as the bar code 24 c shown in FIG. 3 has been recorded and which is located at the position corresponding to the position of the reagent layer 24 of the blood testing unit 10. Specifically, for example, one piece of the dummy unit 10D may be accommodated in each pack containing a plurality of blood testing units 10, 10, . . . Also, before each of the blood testing units 10, 10, . . . contained in the pack is used for the blood test, the information represented by the bar code of the dummy unit 10D may be read out and stored in storage means (not shown). In such cases, the information represented by the bar code of the dummy unit 10D may be read from the storage means at the time of the photometric operation for each of the blood testing units 10, 10, . . . Also, the thus read information may be displayed in the manner described. Alternatively, the results of the blood test may be corrected in accordance with the thus read information.

Each of the dummy unit 10W, the dummy unit 10K, and the dummy unit 10D need not necessarily have the shape identical with the shape of the blood testing unit 10. For example, a dummy unit 210D having a shape illustrated in FIG. 23 may be utilized. The dummy unit 210D illustrated in FIG. 23 comprises a rod-shaped knob 221 and a circular plate 220, which is secured to one end of the rod-shaped knob 221. The surface of the circular plate 220 constitutes a bar code surface 223D, on which a bar code 224 has been recorded. By way of example, in cases where the dummy unit 210D having the shape different from the shape of the blood testing unit 10 is utilized, the unit receiving section 42 of the blood testing apparatus 40 may be provided with a step-like area for supporting the circular plate 220. In this manner, the dummy unit 210D may be supported in the unit receiving section 42 of the blood testing apparatus 40, such that the position of the bar code surface 223D coincides with the position of the reagent layer 24 of the blood testing unit 10.

In the blood testing apparatus 40 illustrated in FIG. 6, the two-dimensional photodetector 50 constituted of the CCD image sensor, or the like, operates such that the intensity of the reflected light 43R having been reflected from one detecting spot, which is among the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b of the reagent layer 24, is detected with a plurality of pixels (preferably, with at least 100 pixels). Specifically, with the plurality of the pixels of the two-dimensional photodetector 50 described above, a plurality of independent light intensity detecting operations are performed with respect to a plurality of subareas of the one detecting spot, which is among the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b of the reagent layer 24. Each of the independent light intensity detecting operations is performed for one of the plurality of the subareas of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b. Also, the signal processing section 51 performs statistical processing on the results of the plurality of the independent light intensity detecting operations performed with respect to the plurality of the subareas of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b. From the statistical processing, a light intensity value, which is representative of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, is obtained. The thus obtained light intensity value, which is representative of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, is taken as the intensity of the reflected light 43R having been reflected from each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b and is utilized for the calculation of the optical density described above.

As the statistical processing described above, for example, processing for calculating a mean value, processing for calculating a median value, or processing for calculating a normal distribution of the detected light intensity values and calculating a mean value of the detected light intensity values, which fall within the range of +2SD (where SD represents the standard deviation) around a detected light intensity value that is associated with the maximum frequency of occurrence, may be employed.

In the manner described above, the light intensity value, which is representative of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, is obtained. Also, the optical density of each detecting spot is calculated in accordance with the thus obtained light intensity value. Therefore, in cases where nonuniformity occurs with the reaction of the reagent with the blood plasma and/or the blood serum within each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b, or in cases where fine dust, or the like, is present within each of the detecting spots, adverse effects of specific results of the light intensity detection due to the nonuniformity in reaction, the fine dust, or the like, are capable of being eliminated, and the blood test is capable of being performed accurately.

As described above, in the blood testing apparatus 40, the region, for which one pixel of the two-dimensional photodetector 50 performs the light intensity detection, is taken as one subarea of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b. Alternatively, a region, for which a group of a plurality of pixels of the two-dimensional photodetector 50 perform the light intensity detection, may be taken as one subarea of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b. Specifically, for example, a region, for which a group of four adjacent pixels of the two-dimensional photodetector 50 perform the light intensity detection, may be taken as one subarea of each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b. Also, for example, a mean value of the light intensity values having been detected with the group of the four adjacent pixels may be subjected to the statistical processing described above.

Also, in the blood testing apparatus 40 illustrated in FIG. 6, the measuring light 43 irradiated to each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b is the light component, which has been obtained through light separation so as to have the wavelength corresponding to the reagent contained in each of the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b. Therefore, the light beams having been reflected from the glucose detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the uric acid detecting spots 24 b, 24 b are capable of being detected by being clearly discriminated from one another. Therefore, the blood tests with respect to a plurality of test purposes are capable of being performed accurately.

Further, in the blood testing apparatus 40 illustrated in FIG. 6, the irradiation of the measuring light 43 to the reagent layer 24 and the detection of the intensity of the reflected light 43R having been reflected from the reagent layer 24 are performed from the side of one surface of the reagent layer 24 opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer 24, on which other surface the blood plasma and/or the blood serum has been supplied to the reagent layer 24. Therefore, the light intensity measuring section 47 for the detection of the reflected light 43R and the light guide member 45 do not interfere with the blood constituent separating membrane 16 for supplying the blood plasma and/or the blood serum. Accordingly, flexibility in layout of the light intensity measuring section 47 and the light guide member 45 is capable of being kept high. Particularly, in this case, the reagent layer 24 is accommodated in the closed vessel constituted of the outer vessel body 11 and the inner vessel body 21, and the layout of the light intensity measuring section 47 and the light guide member 45 is ordinarily not easy. Therefore, the effect of keeping the flexibility in layout of the light intensity measuring section 47 and the light guide member 45 high is markedly advantageous in practice. The effect described above is also obtained with the blood testing apparatuses shown in FIG. 8, FIG. 9, and FIG. 10, which will be described later.

A blood testing unit 10A, which is a second embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 7. In FIG. 7 (and those that follow), similar elements are numbered with the same reference numerals with respect to FIG. 1 to FIG. 6.

The blood testing unit 10A illustrated in FIG. 7 is constituted basically in the same manner as that in the blood testing unit 10 shown in FIG. 1 to FIG. 6, except that the reagent layer 24 is not formed on the side of an inner vessel body 21A and is formed on the side of an outer vessel body 11A. The reagent layer 24 is formed such that the reagent layer 24 is in contact with the back surface of the blood constituent separating membrane 16 located within the outer vessel body 11A, which back surface is opposite to the surface that stands facing the rubber film 15.

In cases where the blood testing unit 10A constituted in the manner described above is utilized, the blood test is capable of being performed basically in the same manner as that described above by use of the blood testing apparatus 40 shown in FIG. 5 and FIG. 6. However, in this case, after the whole blood 31 has been introduced into the blood testing unit 10A, the outer vessel body 11A need not necessarily be pushed toward the inner vessel body 21A, and the blood plasma and/or the blood serum having been separated by the blood constituent separating membrane 16 from the whole blood 31 is capable of spreading through the reagent layer 24. Specifically, with the blood testing unit 10A, the supply of the blood plasma and/or the blood serum to the reagent layer 24 is performed more quickly than with the blood testing unit 10 described above.

A blood testing unit 10B, which is a third embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, and a blood testing apparatus 40A, which is a second embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention, will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 8. The blood testing unit 10B illustrated in FIG. 8 is constituted basically in the same manner as that in the blood testing unit 10 shown in FIG. 1 to FIG. 6, except that a bottom wall 23B of an inner vessel body 21B is not formed at an end area of the inner vessel body 21B and is formed at an intermediate area of the inner vessel body 21B. Also, the blood testing apparatus 40A illustrated in FIG. 8 is constituted basically in the same manner as that in the blood testing apparatus 40 shown in FIG. 6, except that a light guide member 45A is formed such that a light radiating end area of the light guide member 45A is capable of passing through an opening 42 b of the bottom plate of the unit receiving section 42 and entering into the inner vessel body 21B of the blood testing unit 10B. A light radiating end face of the light guide member 45A comes into contact with the bottom wall 23B of the inner vessel body 21B. Therefore, the distance between the objective lens 48 of the light intensity measuring section 47 and the reagent layer 24, the distance between the image forming lens 49 of the light intensity measuring section 47 and the reagent layer 24, and the distance between the two-dimensional photodetector 50 of the light intensity measuring section 47 and the reagent layer 24 are kept at predetermined values.

In cases where the blood testing unit 10B and the blood testing apparatus 40A having the constitutions described above are utilized, the blood test is capable of being performed basically in the same manner as that in cases where the blood testing unit 10 and the blood testing apparatus 40 shown in FIG. 6 are utilized.

A blood testing apparatus 40B, which is a third embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention, will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 9. The blood testing apparatus 40B illustrated in FIG. 9 is constituted basically in the same manner as that in the blood testing apparatus 40A shown in FIG. 8, except for a constitution of a light intensity measuring section 55. Specifically, the light intensity measuring section 55 comprises the two-dimensional photodetector 50 and an image forming lens 56. Also, in the blood testing apparatus 40B, the light radiating end face of the light guide member 45A comes into contact with the bottom wall 23B of the inner vessel body 21B. Therefore, the distance between the image forming lens 56 of the light intensity measuring section 55 and the reagent layer 24 and the distance between the two-dimensional photodetector 50 of the light intensity measuring section 55 and the reagent layer 24 are kept at predetermined values. In the blood testing apparatus 40B, as the blood testing unit 10B, the blood testing unit 10B illustrated in FIG. 8 is utilized.

In cases where the blood testing unit 10B and the blood testing apparatus 40B having the constitutions described above are utilized, the blood test is capable of being performed basically in the same manner as that in cases where the blood testing unit 10 and the blood testing apparatus 40 shown in FIG. 6 are utilized.

A blood testing apparatus 40C, which is a fourth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention, will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 10. The blood testing apparatus 40C illustrated in FIG. 10 is constituted basically in the same manner as that in the blood testing apparatus 40 shown in FIG. 6, except that a light intensity measuring section 47C has a shape longer than the shape of the light intensity measuring section 47, and a rear end area of the light intensity measuring section 47C extends from the light guide member 45 to the exterior. In the light intensity measuring section 47C, as the blood testing unit 10, the blood testing unit 10 illustrated in FIG. 6 is utilized.

In cases where the blood testing apparatus 40C constituted in the manner described above is utilized, the blood test is capable of being performed basically in the same manner as that in cases where the blood testing apparatus 40 shown in FIG. 6 is utilized.

A blood testing unit 60, which is a fourth embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 11. The blood testing unit 60 illustrated in FIG. 11 comprises a rectangular box-shaped outer vessel body 61, which has a bottom wall at an end area and is made from a transparent member. The blood testing unit 60 also comprises a rectangular box-shaped inner vessel body 62, which is combined with the outer vessel body 61 for slide movement within the outer vessel body 61. The blood testing unit 60 further comprises a rubber film 65, which acts as the blood introducing section and closes a circular opening 64 formed through a side wall 63 of the outer vessel body 61. The blood testing unit 60 still further comprises a plate-shaped blood constituent separating membrane 66, which is located within the outer vessel body 61 so as to extend along the axial direction of the outer vessel body 61. The blood testing unit 60 also comprises a plate-shaped reagent layer 67, which is secured to a lower surface of the blood constituent separating membrane 66 in FIG. 11. In FIG. 11, as an aid in facilitating the explanation, the reagent layer 67 is illustrated at a position spaced away from the blood constituent separating membrane 66.

As in the cases of the outer vessel body 11 and the inner vessel body 21 of the blood testing unit 10 illustrated in FIG. 6, the outer vessel body 61 and the inner vessel body 62 of the blood testing unit 60 define an enclosed space at the interior. Also, in cases where the inner vessel body 62 is moved in the direction heading away from the outer vessel body 61 (i.e., toward the right-hand side in FIG. 11), the pressure in the enclosed space is set at the negative pressure.

The blood constituent separating membrane 66 is constituted basically in the manner as that in the blood constituent separating membrane 16 of the blood testing unit 10 illustrated in FIG. 6, except that the blood constituent separating membrane 66 has a thickness larger than the thickness of the blood constituent separating membrane 16 and has the plate-like shape.

By way of example, the reagent layer 67 comprises a plate-shaped nitrocellulose porous membrane, which has a pore diameter of 0.45 μm and acts as the support. Also, detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, 67 d, 67 e, and 67 f, each of which contain one of a plurality of different kinds (by way of example, six kinds) of reagents, have been formed with a spotting process on the nitrocellulose porous membrane. Each of the plurality of the different kinds of the reagents is capable of undergoing a reaction with one of a plurality of different substances contained in the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and is capable of forming a color as a result of the reaction. As described above, the reagent layer 67 is secured to the blood constituent separating membrane 66. Therefore, the reagent layer 67 also extends along the axial direction of the outer vessel body 61.

How a blood test is performed by use of the blood testing unit 60 described above will be described hereinbelow. Firstly, how an operation for taking a blood sample is performed will be described hereinbelow. In order for the blood sample to be taken, the inner vessel body 62 is operated in the manner described above, and the pressure within the enclosed space in the blood testing unit 60 is thus set at the negative pressure. In this state, one tip of the blood sampling needle 30, whose other tip has been stuck in, for example, the upper arm of a human body, is stuck through the rubber film 65 of the outer vessel body 61 into the enclosed space described above. As a result, since the pressure within the enclosed space has been set at the negative pressure, the whole blood 31 passes through the blood sampling needle 30 and is thus introduced into the enclosed space. As illustrated in FIG. 11, the whole blood 31 spreads over the blood constituent separating membrane 66. Solid constituents of the whole blood 31 are caught on the surface of the blood constituent separating membrane 66, and the blood plasma and/or the blood serum passes through the blood constituent separating membrane 66. The blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has passed through the blood constituent separating membrane 66, spreads over the reagent layer 67. Each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f of the reagent layer 67 undergoes the reaction with one of the specific substances, which are contained in the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and are to be tested. As a result of the reaction, each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f forms the color.

The inner vessel body 62 of the blood testing unit 60 is provided with the air introducing hole 26, and the sealing member 27 for closing the air introducing hole 26 is adhered to the inner vessel body 62. Therefore, with the air introducing hole 26 and the sealing member 27, the same effects as those described above are capable of being obtained.

How the optical densities of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f are measured will be described hereinbelow. FIG. 12 is a perspective view showing a major part of a blood testing apparatus 40D, which is a fifth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention. In the blood testing apparatus 40D, the blood testing unit 60 is subjected to the photometric operation. As illustrated in FIG. 12, the blood testing apparatus 40D comprises a pair of light guide members 70, 70 for irradiating the measuring light 43 to the detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, 67 d, 67 e, and 67 f of the reagent layer 67 from the side of a back surface (i.e., the lower surface in FIG. 11) of the reagent layer 67 of the blood testing unit 60. The blood testing apparatus 40D also comprises six distributed index lenses 71 a, 71 b, 71 c, 71 d, 71 e, and 71 f, which are located at positions corresponding to the positions of the detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, 67 d, 67 e, and 67 f. The blood testing apparatus 40D further comprises the two-dimensional photodetector 50, such as a CCD image sensor, which is located so as to stand facing all of the distributed index lenses 71 a, 71 b, 71 c, 71 d, 71 e, and 71 f.

One side wall of the outer vessel body 61 of the blood testing unit 60 intervenes between the blood testing apparatus 40D and the reagent layer 67. In FIG. 12, as an aid in facilitating the explanation, the one side wall of the outer vessel body 61 is not shown.

In the blood testing apparatus 40D having the constitution described above, when the measuring light 43 is irradiated to the reagent layer 67, light beams having been reflected from the detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, 67 d, 67 e, and 67 f of the reagent layer 67 are efficiently collected respectively by the distributed index lenses 71 a, 71 b, 71 c, 71 d, 71 e, and 71 f. Therefore, the intensity of the reflected light beam is measured with respect to each of the distributed index lenses 71 a to 71 f, i.e. with respect to each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f. Accordingly, with the blood testing apparatus 40D, the optical density of each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f having formed the colors is capable of being detected in accordance with the photo detection signal S, which is obtained from the two-dimensional photodetector 50.

In order for the concentrations of the specific substances, which have reacted with the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f, to be calculated from the optical densities of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f, which optical densities change with the passage of time, basically the same technique as the technique utilizing the calibration curves, which technique is employed in the blood testing apparatus 40 of FIG. 6, may be employed.

Also, in the blood testing apparatus 40D described above, the irradiation of the measuring light 43 to the reagent layer 67 and the detection of the intensities of the light beams having been reflected from the reagent layer 67 are performed from the side of the back surface of the reagent layer 67 of the blood testing unit 60 opposite to the other surface of the reagent layer 67, which other surface stands facing the blood constituent separating membrane 66 for supplying the blood plasma and/or the blood serum to the reagent layer 67 as illustrated in FIG. 11. Therefore, the light guide members 70, 70, the distributed index lenses 71 a to 71 f, and the two-dimensional photodetector 50 do not interfere with the blood constituent separating membrane 66. Accordingly, the layout of the light guide members 70, 70, the distributed index lenses 71 a to 71 f, and the two-dimensional photodetector 50 becomes easy. Particularly, in the blood testing apparatus 40D, wherein the distributed index lenses 71 a to 71 f are located such that each of the distributed index lenses 71 a to 71 f corresponds to one of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f, the flexibility in layout of the distributed index lenses 71 a to 71 f is ordinarily not high. Therefore, the effect of keeping the layout of the light guide members 70, 70, the distributed index lenses 71 a to 71 f, and the two-dimensional photodetector 50 easy is markedly advantageous in practice. The effect described above is also obtained with the blood testing apparatuses shown in FIG. 13, FIG. 21, and FIG. 25, which will be described later.

Further, in the blood testing apparatus 40D, the distributed index lenses 71 a to 71 f are located such that each of the distributed index lenses 71 a to 71 f stands facing one of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f. Therefore, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the measuring light having been scattered by areas of the reagent layer 67 other than the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f is detected by the two-dimensional photodetector 50, and the accuracy of the blood test is affected adversely.

Experiments were conducted for confirmation of the effect described above. In the experiments, an aqueous Bromophenol Blue solution acting as a reagent was spotted onto a nitrocellulose membrane, and a reagent layer was thus formed. Diameters of detecting spots were set at 500 μm, and pitches of the detecting spots were set at 1 mm, such that the detecting spots having formed colors may be arrayed at predetermined intervals. In this manner, four detecting spots (i.e., two detecting spots arrayed in the vertical direction×two detecting spots arrayed in the horizontal direction) were formed. Halogen lamps were employed as light sources for producing measuring light beams, and R-60 (supplied by Hoya Corp.) was employed as optical filters. By use of the halogen lamps and the optical filters, the measuring light beams were irradiated to the detecting spots described above. Light beams having been reflected from the detecting spots were collected by distributed index lenses, each of which was located with respect to one of the detecting spots, and the intensities of the reflected light beams were detected. A mean value of the thus detected intensities of the light beams having been reflected from the detecting spots was taken as 100. Also, an experiment was conducted by use of a unit for experiment, in which the areas of the reagent layer 67 other than the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f had been set as black areas. In the experiment using the unit for experiment, a mean value of the detected intensities of the light beams having been reflected from the detecting spots was equal to 100. If the light collecting optical system comprising the distributed index lenses also collected the light having been scattered from the areas of the reagent layer 67 other than the detecting spots 67 a to 67 f, the mean value of the detected intensities of the light beams having been reflected from the detecting spots would be smaller than 100 in the experiment using the unit for experiment. However, since the mean value of the detected intensities of the light beams having been reflected from the detecting spots was equal to 100 in the experiment using the unit for experiment, it was confirmed that the light collecting optical system did not collect the scattered light. The effect described above is also obtained in cases where a one-dimensional photodetector is employed as the photodetector in lieu of the two-dimensional photodetector 50.

A blood testing apparatus 40F, which is a sixth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention, will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 13. The blood testing apparatus 40F illustrated in FIG. 13 is constituted for the cases where a reagent layer 67F is provided with a plurality of (by way of example, four) detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, and 67 d, which are arrayed in one row. The blood testing apparatus 40F is constituted basically in the same manner as that in the blood testing apparatus 40D illustrated in FIG. 12, except that four distributed index lenses 71 a, 71 b, 71 c, and 71 d are arrayed in one row, and a one-dimensional photodetector 72 constituted of a CCD linear sensor, or the like, is employed as the photodetector.

In the blood testing apparatus 40F, when the measuring light 43 is irradiated to the reagent layer 67F, the light beams having been reflected from the detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, and 67 d of the reagent layer 67F are efficiently collected respectively by the distributed index lenses 71 a, 71 b, 71 c, and 71 d. Therefore, the intensity of the reflected light beam is measured with respect to each of the distributed index lenses 71 a to 71 d, i.e. with respect to each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 d. Accordingly, with the blood testing apparatus 40F, the optical density of each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 d having formed the colors is capable of being detected in accordance with the photo detection signal S, which is obtained from the one-dimensional photodetector 72.

In order for the concentrations of the specific substances, which have reacted with the detecting spots 67 a to 67 d, to be calculated from the optical densities of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 d, which optical densities change with the passage of time, basically the same technique as the technique utilizing the calibration curves, which technique is employed in the blood testing apparatus 40 of FIG. 6, may be employed.

A blood testing unit 80, which is a fifth embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 14. The blood testing unit 80 illustrated in FIG. 14 is constituted basically in the same manner as that in the blood testing unit 60 shown in FIG. 11, except that a blood constituent separating membrane 66G is located in parallel with a bottom wall 68 of an outer vessel body 61G, the opening 64 is formed through the bottom wall 68, and a rod-shaped reagent layer 67G extends along the axial direction of the outer vessel body 61G. By way of example, the reagent layer 67G is provided with five detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, 67 d, and 67 e, which are arrayed in one row.

With the blood testing unit 80, the blood sampling needle 30 is stuck through the rubber film 65, which closes the opening 64, and the whole blood is introduced through the blood sampling needle 30 into the enclosed space in the outer vessel body 61G. The whole blood having been introduced into the outer vessel body 61G spreads over the blood constituent separating membrane 66G. The solid constituents of the whole blood are caught on the surface of the blood constituent separating membrane 66G, and the blood plasma and/or the blood serum passes through the blood constituent separating membrane 66G. The blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has passed through the blood constituent separating membrane 66G, spreads over the reagent layer 67G in the longitudinal direction of the reagent layer 67G. Each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 e of the reagent layer 67G undergoes the reaction with one of the specific substances, which are contained in the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and are to be tested. As a result of the reaction, each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 e forms the color.

In order for the optical densities of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 e having formed the colors to be detected, a blood testing apparatus having a constitution basically similar to the constitution of, for example, the blood testing apparatus 40F shown in FIG. 13 may be utilized.

The inner vessel body 62 of the blood testing unit 80 is provided with the air introducing hole 26, and the sealing member 27 for closing the air introducing hole 26 is adhered to the inner vessel body 62. Therefore, with the air introducing hole 26 and the sealing member 27, the same effects as those described above are capable of being obtained.

A blood testing unit 90, which is sixth embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 15. The blood testing unit 90 illustrated in FIG. 15 comprises a bag-shaped vessel 73, which is made from a transparent flexible sheet material and constitutes the closed vessel. The blood testing unit 90 also comprises a cover member 75, which is made from a material having a high rigidity and closes an open end area of the bag-shaped vessel 73. The cover member 75 is provided with a blood introducing opening 74. The blood testing unit 90 further comprises a permeation member 76, which is accommodated within the bag-shaped vessel 73. The blood testing unit 90 still further comprises a blood constituent separating membrane 77, which is located at an intermediate area of the permeation member 76. The blood testing unit 90 also comprises a reagent layer 67H, and a frame member 78, which is fitted onto the bag-shaped vessel 73 so as to surround the outer periphery of the bag-shaped vessel 73.

The permeation member 76 is constituted of a porous structure material. The permeation member 76 is located such that one end area of the permeation member 76 stands facing the blood introducing opening 74 of the cover member 75, and the other end area of the permeation member 76 is in contact with the reagent layer 67H. The blood constituent separating membrane 77 is made from a material basically similar to the material of the blood constituent separating membrane 16 of the blood testing unit 10 illustrated in FIG. 1 to FIG. 4, or the like. Also, as in the cases of the reagent layer 67 shown in FIG. 11, and the like, the reagent layer 67H comprises the plate-shaped nitrocellulose porous membrane, and detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, and 67 d, each of which contain one of a plurality of different kinds (by way of example, four kinds) of reagents, have been formed with a spotting process on the nitrocellulose porous membrane. Each of the plurality of the different kinds of the reagents is capable of undergoing a reaction with one of a plurality of different substances contained in the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and is capable of forming a color as a result of the reaction.

How a blood test is performed by use of the blood testing unit 90 described above will be described hereinbelow. Firstly, how an operation for taking a blood sample is performed will be described hereinbelow. In order for the blood sample to be taken, for example, a small cut is formed in the finger F of a human body by use of a lancet, or the like, and the whole blood 31 oozing from the small cut in the finger F is supplied through the blood introducing opening 74 to the permeation member 76. The whole blood 31 having been supplied to the permeation member 76 permeates through the permeation member 76 toward the center area of the bag-shaped vessel 73 and arrives at the blood constituent separating membrane 77. The solid constituents of the whole blood 31 are caught on an end surface of the blood constituent separating membrane 77, and the blood plasma and/or the blood serum passes through the blood constituent separating membrane 77. The blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has passed through the blood constituent separating membrane 77, spreads over the reagent layer 67H. Each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 d of the reagent layer 67H undergoes the reaction with one of the specific substances, which are contained in the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and are to be tested. As a result of the reaction, each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 d forms the color.

In order for the optical densities of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 d having formed the colors to be detected, a blood testing apparatus having a constitution basically similar to the constitution of, for example, the blood testing apparatus 40D shown in FIG. 12 may be utilized.

The frame member 78 is made from a material having a certain degree of rigidity. The frame member 78 may be pushed with the fingers from above and below and may thus be moved in the direction indicated by the arrow Q in FIG. 16. In cases where the frame member 78 is thus moved after the whole blood 31 has been introduced into the bag-shaped vessel 73, the whole blood 31, which permeates through the permeation member 76, is capable of being drawn and sent to the blood constituent separating membrane 77. Also, the blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has been separated by the blood constituent separating membrane 77 from the whole blood 31 and permeates through the permeation member 76, is capable of being drawn and sent to the reagent layer 67H. Therefore, the blood plasma and/or the blood serum is capable of being reliably supplied to the reagent layer 67H. Also, the time required from the blood sampling to the spreading of the blood plasma and/or the blood serum over the reagent layer 67H is capable of being kept short.

In the blood testing unit 90, the closed vessel is constituted of the bag-shaped vessel 73 made from the flexible sheet material. Therefore, a plurality of bag-shaped vessels are capable of being laid up one upon another with little gap intervening between adjacent bag-shaped vessels. Accordingly, effects of keeping the space for conveyance or storage of the bag-shaped vessels small are obtained.

A blood testing unit 100, which is a seventh embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 17. The blood testing unit 100 illustrated in FIG. 17 comprises a transparent plate-shaped member 85. A straight-line fine path 81 acting as the enclosed space is formed within the plate-shaped member 85. The blood testing unit 100 also comprises a blood constituent separating membrane 82, which is located at an intermediate area of the fine path 81. The blood testing unit 100 further comprises a reagent layer 67J, which is located at an end area of the fine path 81 within the plate-shaped member 85.

The fine path 81 has an opening 84 at an end surface 83 of the plate-shaped member 85. The opening 84 constitutes the blood introducing section. Also, as in the cases of the reagent layer 67G shown in FIG. 14, and the like, the reagent layer 67J comprises the rod-shaped nitrocellulose porous membrane, and the detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, and 67 d, each of which contain one of a plurality of different kinds (by way of example, four kinds) of reagents, have been formed with a spotting process on the nitrocellulose porous membrane. Each of the plurality of the different kinds of the reagents is capable of undergoing a reaction with one of a plurality of different substances contained in the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and is capable of forming a color as a result of the reaction.

How a blood test is performed by use of the blood testing unit 100 described above will be described hereinbelow. Firstly, how an operation for taking a blood sample is performed will be described hereinbelow. In order for the blood sample to be taken, for example, a small cut is formed in the finger F of a human body by use of a lancet, or the like, and the cut area of the finger F is pushed against the opening 84. As a result, the whole blood 31 oozing from the small cut in the finger F is supplied into the opening 84. The whole blood 31 moves by capillary action through the fine path 81 toward the center area of the fine path 81 and arrives at the blood constituent separating membrane 82. The solid constituents of the whole blood 31 are caught on an end surface of the blood constituent separating membrane 82 (which end surface stands facing the opening 84), and the blood plasma and/or the blood serum passes through the blood constituent separating membrane 82. The blood plasma and/or the blood serum, which has passed through the blood constituent separating membrane 82, spreads over the reagent layer 67J. Each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 d of the reagent layer 67J undergoes the reaction with one of the specific substances, which are contained in the blood plasma and/or the blood serum and are to be tested. As a result of the reaction, each of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 d forms the color.

In order for the optical densities of the detecting spots 67 a to 67 d having formed the colors to be detected, a blood testing apparatus having a constitution basically similar to the constitution of, for example, the blood testing apparatus 40F shown in FIG. 13 may be utilized.

In order for the capillary action to be achieved, the fine path 81 is open to the exterior of the plate-shaped member 85 via a fine communication path 86. The communication path 86 is provided with a trapping material 87, which allows air to pass therethrough and traps water. Therefore, from the view point in that the blood constituents are not allowed to leak to the exterior, it may be regarded that the fine path 81 is closed with respect to the exterior, except for the opening 84.

With the blood testing unit 100, the plate-shaped member 85 is capable of being formed so as to have a size and a thickness approximately identical with the size and the thickness of, for example, a credit card. Therefore, the blood testing unit 100 is free from a risk of breakage and is capable of being carried easily.

FIG. 18 is a plan view showing a different example of a reagent layer 124 constituting the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention. In this example of the reagent layer 124, the area of the reagent layer 124, which area is other than the detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the detecting spots 24 b, 24 b carrying the reagents, is formed as a black plane 124B. In cases where the reagent layer 124 is formed in this manner, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the measuring light having been scattered by the area of the reagent layer, which area is other than the detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the detecting spots 24 b, 24 b carrying the reagents, is detected by the photo detecting means, and the accuracy of the blood test is affected adversely. In lieu of the area of the reagent layer 124, which area is other than the detecting spots 24 a, 24 a and the detecting spots 24 b, 24 b carrying the reagents, being formed as the black plane 124B, the area may be formed as a dark plane of a color close to black, or a mirror plane. In such cases, the same effect as that described above is capable of being obtained.

Experiments were conducted for confirmation of the effect described above. In the experiments, an aqueous Bromophenol Blue solution acting as a reagent was spotted onto a nitrocellulose membrane, and a reagent layer was thus formed. Diameters of detecting spots were set at 500 μm, and pitches of the detecting spots were set at 1 mm, such that the detecting spots having formed colors may be arrayed at predetermined intervals. In this manner, four detecting spots (i.e., two detecting spots arrayed in the vertical direction×two detecting spots arrayed in the horizontal direction) were formed. A halogen lamp was employed as a light source for producing the measuring light, and R-60 (supplied by Hoya Corp.) was employed as an optical filter. By use of the halogen lamp and the optical filter, the measuring light was irradiated to the detecting spots described above. Light having been reflected from the detecting spots was guided to a CCD image sensor. A mean value of the detected intensities of the light having been reflected from the detecting spots was taken as 100. Also, an experiment was conducted by use of a reagent layer, in which the area of the reagent layer other than the detecting spots had been set as a black area. In the experiment using the thus set reagent layer, a mean value of the detected intensities of the light having been reflected from the detecting spots was equal to 97. From the results of the experiments described above, it was confirmed that the adverse effects of the scattered light coming from the area other than the detecting spots could be suppressed.

FIG. 19 is a perspective view showing a further different example of a reagent layer 167 constituting the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention. In this example of the reagent layer 167, detecting areas 167 a, 167 b, 167 c, and 167 d carrying the reagents are formed in a long strip-like shape.

A blood testing unit 110, which is an eighth embodiment of the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention, will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 20. The blood testing unit 110 illustrated in FIG. 20 is constituted basically in the same manner as that in the blood testing unit 10 shown in FIG. 1, except that the blood testing unit 110 is provided with locking means for keeping the states of an outer vessel body 11C and an inner vessel body 21C when the pressure in the enclosed space defined at the interior by the outer vessel body 11C and the inner vessel body 21C has been set at the negative pressure. The locking means comprises an L-shaped engagement groove 111, which is formed in the inner peripheral wall surface of the outer vessel body 11C, and an engagement protrusion 121, which protrudes from the outer peripheral wall surface of the inner vessel body 21C and is accommodated within the engagement groove 111.

In cases where the blood testing unit 110 is utilized for the blood test, the inner vessel body 21C is pulled in the direction heading away from the outer vessel body 11C, i.e. downwardly in FIG. 20. (At this time, the engagement protrusion 121 moves downwardly in a vertical groove area of the outer vessel body 11C.) In this manner, the pressure in the enclosed space defined at the interior by the outer vessel body 11C and the inner vessel body 21C is set at the negative pressure. Thereafter, the inner vessel body 21C is rotated slightly in the direction indicated by the arrow T in FIG. 20. As a result, the engagement protrusion 121 is thus guided into a horizontal groove area of the outer vessel body 11C, and the inner vessel body 21C is prevented from moving in the axial direction of the inner vessel body 21C. Therefore, the problems are capable of being prevented from occurring in that the outer vessel body 11C and the inner vessel body 21C naturally return to the original states, i.e. the pressure in the enclosed space returns from the negative pressure to the atmospheric pressure. Accordingly, the outer vessel body 11C and the inner vessel body 21C need not be held with the tips of the fingers of the person in charge of the blood test such that the two vessel bodies do not return to the original states. Accordingly, the operation for introducing the blood sample into the closed vessel is capable of being performed easily.

A seventh embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 21. FIG. 21 is a front view showing a light receiving optical system of the seventh embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention. The seventh embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention is utilized for performing the blood test by use of, for example, the blood testing unit having the reagent layer 67F shown in FIG. 13. In this embodiment, as the light collecting optical system for collecting the beams of the reflected light 43R, which beams have been reflected from the detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, and 67 d, and guiding the collected beams of the reflected light 43R to the one-dimensional photodetector 72, a lens array 170 comprising a plurality of distributed index lenses 171, 171, . . . , which are arrayed in one row, is employed.

With the constitution shown in FIG. 21, a beam of the reflected light 43R, which beam has been reflected from one of the detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, and 67 d, is efficiently collected by a group of a plurality of (in this example, four) distributed index lenses 171, 171, . . . and guided to the one-dimensional photodetector 72.

In the constitution shown in FIG. 21, as described above, the beams of the reflected light 43R are collected by the plurality of the lenses, which are arrayed in the one-dimensional direction. Alternatively, the beams of the reflected light 43R may be collected by a plurality of lenses, which are arrayed in two-dimensional directions.

An eighth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 24. FIG. 24 is a perspective view showing a light sending optical system of the eighth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention. The eighth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention comprises four light emitting diodes 244 a, 244 b, 244 c, and 244 d, which produce the measuring light beams 43, 43, . . . having different wavelengths. The measuring light beam 43, which has been produced by the light emitting diode 244 a, is collimated by a collimator lens 245 a, and the thus collimated measuring light beam 43 is transmitted through a band pass filter 246 a. In the same manner, the measuring light beams 43, 43, 43, which have been produced by the light emitting diodes 244 b, 244 c, and 244 d, are collimated respectively by collimator lenses 245 b, 245 c, and 245 d, and the thus collimated measuring light beams 43, 43, 43 are transmitted respectively through band pass filters 246 b, 246 c, and 246 d.

The light emitting diodes 244 a, 244 b, 244 c, and 244 d, the collimator lenses 245 a, 245 b, 245 c, and 245 d, and the band pass filters 246 a, 246 b, 246 c, and 246 d are supported on a moving base 240. The moving base 240 is capable of being moved by driving means 250 in the array direction of the light emitting diodes 244 a, 244 b, 244 c, and 244 d, i.e. in the direction indicated by the arrow M in FIG. 24. Also, the eighth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention comprises the light guide member 45 for guiding the measuring light 43 in the same manner as that in the light guide member 45 illustrated in FIG. 6. A chopper 251 is located in front of the light entry end face of the light guide member 45.

With the constitution illustrated in FIG. 24, the moving base 240 is moved, and one of the four light emitting diodes 244 a, 244 b, 244 c, and 244 d is selectively located at the position which stands facing the light entry end face of the light guide member 45. In this manner, the moving base 240 is intermittently moved at predetermined time intervals, and the four measuring light beams 43, 43, . . . having different wavelengths are successively irradiated from the light radiating end face of the light guide member 45 to the reagent layer of the blood testing unit (not shown in FIG. 24).

With the constitution illustrated in FIG. 24, the chopper 251 is capable of being rotated and set in a state in which the chopper 251 blocks the measuring light 43. Therefore, when the chopper 251 is being set in this state, the operation for storing the photo detection signal S, which is obtained from a photodetector (not shown in FIG. 24), e.g. the two-dimensional photodetector 50 illustrated in FIG. 6, may be performed. The thus stored photo detection signal S is capable of being utilized as the photo detection signal, which is obtained in cases where the reflectivity of the reagent layer with respect to the measuring light 43 is 0%. Therefore, the thus stored photo detection signal S is capable of being utilized for the correction of the optical density described above.

A blood testing apparatus 40H, which is a ninth embodiment of the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention, will be described hereinbelow with reference to FIG. 25. The blood testing apparatus 40H illustrated in FIG. 25 is constituted basically in the same manner as that in the blood testing apparatus 40F illustrated in FIG. 13, except that, in lieu of the single, comparatively large light guide member 70, four light guide members 70 a, 70 b, 70 c, and 70 d are utilized. The four light guide members 70 a, 70 b, 70 c, and 70 d irradiate the measuring light beams 43, 43, . . . respectively to the four detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, and 67 d of the reagent layer 67F.

The light guide members 70 a, 70 b, 70 c, and 70 d constitute four independent light sending optical systems. Therefore, with the constitution illustrated in FIG. 25, the measuring light beams, which have been separated from one another such that each of the measuring light beams has a wavelength adapted to one of the reagents contained in the four detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, and 67 d, are capable of being irradiated to the detecting spots 67 a, 67 b, 67 c, and 67 d as the independent measuring light irradiating operations. Accordingly, the accuracy of the blood test is capable of being enhanced.

Elements constituting the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention will hereinbelow be described in more detail. As for several elements, how the elements are produced, and the like, will also be described hereinbelow.

Firstly, an example of the porous structure material constituting the reagent layer will be described hereinbelow. In this example, the porous structure material was formed with a calendering process from a nitrocellulose membrane or a polysulfone membrane. Specifically, a 100 μm-thick stainless steel flat plate having 64 holes (i.e., eight holes arrayed in the vertical direction×eight holes arrayed in the horizontal direction), which had a diameter of 300 μm and were arrayed such that the distance between center points of adjacent holes was equal to 500 μm, was prepared. A nitrocellulose membrane having a pore diameter of 15 μm (STHF, supplied by Millipore Corporation) was then hot-pressed to the stainless steel flat plate at a temperature of 140° C. and a pressure of 500 kg/cm2 for two minutes. In this manner, the porous structure material was formed in each of the holes of the stainless steel flat plate. At the region of the nitrocellulose membrane located on the side outward from the holes of the stainless steel flat plate, the porous structure of the nitrocellulose membrane was lost due to the hot pressing, and the white membrane changed to a transparent film. In this manner, a structure (a barrier), which was not permeable to water, was formed on the side outward from the holes of the stainless steel flat plate.

In lieu of the nitrocellulose membrane described above, a nitrocellulose membrane having a pore diameter of 0.45 μm (HA, supplied by Millipore Corporation) may be employed. As another alternative, a polysulfone membrane having a pore diameter falling within the range of 0.5 μm to 50 μm (minimum pore diameter: 1 μm to 2 μm, supplied by Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd.) may be employed in lieu of the nitrocellulose membrane described above. As a further alternative, a porous membrane constituted of acetyl cellulose, cellulose, a nylon, or the like, may be employed in lieu of the nitrocellulose membrane described above. Further, in lieu of the stainless steel flat plate described above, a metal plate constituted of nickel, copper, silver, gold, platinum, or the like, may be employed. As another alternative, a resin plate constituted of Teflon (trade name), a polystyrene, a polyethylene, or the like, may be employed in lieu of the stainless steel flat plate described above.

The porous structure material formed in the manner described above is capable of being utilized for the formation of the reagent layer 24, 67, 67F, 67G, 67H, or 67J in each of the embodiments described above.

A different example of the porous structure material constituting the reagent layer will be described hereinbelow. In this example, the porous structure material was formed with a coating process. Specifically, a 100 μm-thick stainless steel flat plate having 64 holes (i.e., eight holes arrayed in the vertical direction×eight holes arrayed in the horizontal direction), which had a diameter of 300 μm and were arrayed such that the distance between center points of adjacent holes was equal to 500 μm, was prepared. Styrene-butadiene rubber was then coated on the stainless steel flat plate and dried. Thereafter, a nitrocellulose solution (a 10 wt % solution in ethyl acetate) was coated on the stainless steel flat plate. The nitrocellulose solution, which remained at the region other than the holes of the stainless steel flat plate, was then squeezed out, and the nitrocellulose solution within the holes was dried. In this manner, the porous structure material was formed in each of the holes of the stainless steel flat plate.

The porous structure material formed in the manner described above is capable of being utilized for the formation of the reagent layer 24, 67, 67F, 67G, 67H, or 67J in each of the embodiments described above.

In order for the reagent to be supported on the porous structure material described above, for example, a predetermined amount, e.g. approximately 1 nl (nanoliter), of the reagent may be spotted onto the porous structure material by use of a commercially available spotter, and the spotted reagent may then be dried to form a detecting spot.

Also, in cases where the detecting spot is formed in the manner described above, a barrier should preferably be formed previously, such that the water-soluble reagent may not permeate through the area other than the area acting as the detecting spot of the porous structure material. As described above, in cases where the porous structure material is formed with the technique for the hot pressing described above, the barrier is formed automatically with the hot pressing. Alternatively, the barrier may be formed with heat fusion after the porous structure material has been formed.

As another alternative, circular pieces of the nitrocellulose membrane or the polysulfone membrane, which have a diameter of 300 μm and have been impregnated with reagents, may be attached to a different nitrocellulose membrane or a different polysulfone membrane, such that the circular pieces of the nitrocellulose membrane or the polysulfone membrane may be located at a predetermined spacing from one another and constitute independent reagent areas. In this manner, a structure through which the water-soluble reagent does not permeate is capable of being formed around the reagent areas.

As for the blood constituent separating membrane, such as the blood constituent separating membrane 16 illustrated in FIG. 2, in cases where the reagent layer is pushed against the blood constituent separating membrane, a protective membrane for preventing the blood constituent separating membrane from being damaged should preferably be overlaid on the surface of the blood constituent separating membrane, which surface comes into contact with the reagent layer. In order for the effect of the protective membrane to be confirmed, the experiments described below were performed. Specifically, a nylon mesh, which had a thickness falling within the range of 300 μm to 400 μm and through which a plurality of holes having a diameter falling within the range of 200 μm to 400 μm had been perforated at 1 mm pitches, was laminated with a blood constituent separating membrane constituted of a polysulfone membrane. A circular piece having a diameter of 10 mm was then punched out from the resulting laminate and fitted in a plastic circular cylinder having an inner diameter of 10 mm. Thereafter, 50 μl (microliter) of whole blood was spotted onto the circular piece of the laminate from the side of the nylon mesh. Also, a plastic circular cylinder having an outer diameter of 6 mm, in which a nitrocellulose membrane having a diameter of 6 mm had been fitted to a bottom surface, was inserted into the aforesaid plastic circular cylinder from the side of the polysulfone membrane and brought into contact with the polysulfone membrane at a pressure falling within the range of 300 kg/m2 to 500 kg/m2. A comparative experiment was conducted in the same manner as that described above, except that the nylon mesh was not laminated with the polysulfone membrane.

As a result, it was found that the polysulfone membrane which had not been laminated with the nylon mesh suffered from damage, and the polysulfone membrane which had been laminated with the nylon mesh did not suffer from any damage.

A further different example of the reagent layer constituting the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention will be described hereinbelow.

In this example, a nitrocellulose porous membrane having a pore diameter of 0.45 μm (supplied by Millipore Corporation) was attached to slide glass for microscopic observation, which had a size of 1 inch×3 inches. Also, an MES buffer solution, which contained glucose oxidase, peroxidase, 1,7-dihydroxy naphthalene, and 4-amino antipyrine and had been adjusted to a pH value falling within the range of 5.5 to 6.5, was spotted onto the nitrocellulose porous membrane by use of a micro spotter. More specifically, 24 spots (i.e., four spots arrayed in the vertical direction×six spots arrayed in the horizontal direction) of the MES buffer solution, each of which had a diameter of approximately 200 μm, were formed at intervals of 600 μm on the nitrocellulose porous membrane. The thus formed spots were then dried. In this manner, glucose detecting spots, which were of the pigment types and had the absorption characteristics such that the maximum absorption wavelength was in the vicinity of 505 nm, were formed.

A halogen lamp was utilized as a light source, and light having a predetermined intensity was produced by the halogen lamp. The light having been produced by the halogen lamp was passed through an optical filter for transmitting light having a wavelength of 505 nm, and monochromatic light for use as the measuring light was thus obtained. Also, a sample support base was secured at a position spaced by a distance falling within the range of 10 cm to 30 cm from the light source, and it was set such that the distance between the nitrocellulose porous membrane placed on the sample support base and the light source was kept at a predetermined value. Further, an optical system for guiding the reflected light, which was reflected from the glucose detecting spots of the nitrocellulose porous membrane when the measuring light was irradiated to the glucose detecting spots, through a lens system having a 10-power magnification to a CCD detector was located.

Within a photometric system blocked from external light, the intensity of light, which was received by each of devices constituting the CCD detector when the measuring light was blocked, was measured. The thus measured light intensity was stored as the light intensity at the time of 0% reflectivity. Thereafter, a white plate was located at the same position as the position of the nitrocellulose porous membrane, and the intensity of light, which was received by each of devices constituting the CCD detector, was measured. The thus measured light intensity was stored as the light intensity at the time of 100% reflectivity.

The nitrocellulose porous membrane was secured at a predetermined position, and human blood serum was spotted such that the 24 detecting spots of the nitrocellulose porous membrane were reliably wetted with the human blood serum. Also, while the light having a wavelength of 505 nm was being irradiated to the nitrocellulose porous membrane, the intensity of the reflected light coming from the nitrocellulose porous membrane was measured one time per 10 seconds. The thus measured intensity of the reflected light was converted into an optical density of each of the detecting spots having formed the colors. The value of the optical density of each of the detecting spots reached a predetermined value within approximately one minute after the blood serum was spotted. The value of the optical density obtained at this time was taken as an end point. In the same manner as that described above, a plurality of blood serums, in which the glucose concentrations were adjusted at different values, were spotted, and a calibration curve of the optical density with respect to the glucose concentration was thereby formed. In accordance with the thus formed calibration curve, a glucose concentration of an arbitrary human blood serum was capable of being calculated.

A still further different example of the reagent layer constituting the blood testing unit in accordance with the present invention will be described hereinbelow. In this example, 36 holes (i.e., six holes arrayed in the vertical direction×six holes arrayed in the horizontal direction), each of which had a diameter of falling within the range of 200 μm to 500p133m, were formed at intervals two times as large as the hole diameter through a polyethylene plate, which was colored in black, or a stainless steel plate having a black surface. A nitrocellulose membrane was then embedded in the holes. Also, an MES buffer solution, which contained glucose oxidase, peroxidase, 1,7-dihydroxy naphthalene, and 4-amino antipyrine and had been adjusted to a pH value falling within the range of 5.5 to 6.5, was spotted onto the nitrocellulose membrane by use of a micro spotter. The spotted solution was then dried.

As for the thus formed reagent layer, in the same manner as that described above, it had been confirmed that the glucose concentration of human blood serum is capable of being measured.

Elements constituting the blood testing apparatus in accordance with the present invention will hereinbelow be described in more detail.

As the light source for producing the measuring light, besides the aforesaid light emitting diode for producing the monochromatic light or the white light, a white light source, such as a halogen lamp or a xenon lamp, may be employed. Also, as the means for converting the measuring light into monochromatic light, an optical filter, which transmits the light having wavelengths falling within a range of approximately a center wavelength±3 nm, is capable of being utilized appropriately. Alternatively, a filter having comparatively bad monochromatic characteristics and transmitting the light having wavelengths falling within a range of approximately a center wavelength±30 nm, which wavelengths fall within the range of the absorption wavelengths of the reagents having formed the colors, may be utilized. As another alternative, a light emitting diode, a semiconductor laser, or the like, which has good monochromatic characteristics and transmits only the light having a wavelength falling within the range of the absorption wavelengths of the reagents having formed the colors, may be utilized alone without being combined with a filter.

As the means for detecting the light having been reflected from the reagent layer, besides the aforesaid CCD detector, means capable of performing simultaneous multiple-point detection, such as a photodiode array or an optical multi-analyzer, may be utilized. Alternatively, a plurality of devices, each of which is capable of performing single-point detection, such as photomultipliers, may be arrayed and utilized.

In order to obtain the photo detection signal S in cases where the reflectivity of the reagent layer with respect to the measuring light is 0%, besides the dummy unit 10K shown in FIG. 22 and the chopper 251 shown in FIG. 24, one of various other means capable of blocking the measuring light, which travels toward the reagent layer, or the light, which has been reflected from the reagent layer and travels toward the photodetector, may be utilized. As such means, besides the means for simply blocking the light, the means, which changes the intensity of the light or the direction of the optical path of the light by the utilization of light interference, refraction, or diffraction, may be employed. Alternatively, instead of the light being blocked optically, electric power supplied to the light source for producing the measuring light may be blocked, and the photo detection signal S obtained from the photodetector at this time may be taken as the photo detection signal obtained in cases where the reflectivity is 0%.

In order to obtain the photo detection signal S in cases where the reflectivity of the reagent layer with respect to the measuring light is 100%, besides the white plate 23W of the dummy unit 10W shown in FIG. 22, operation may be performed, wherein the measuring light is irradiated to a gray plate, a blue plate, a green plate, a yellow plate, and a red plate, whose optical densities are known. From the photo detection signal S obtained at this time, the photo detection signal S at the time of 100% reflectivity may be calculated.

Also, a black plate, which is of the same type as the black plate 23K of the dummy unit 10K described above, and a white plate, which is of the same type as the white plate 23W of the dummy unit 10W, may be formed at certain areas of the reagent layer 24. The measuring light may be irradiated to the black plate and the white plate. In this manner, the photo detection signal S at the time of the 0% reflectivity and the photo detection signal S at the time of the 100% reflectivity may be obtained.

Further, the technique, with which the blood testing apparatus makes a judgment as to the start point of the color forming reaction of the reagent layer, is not limited to the technique for measuring the intensity of the light reflected from the reagent layer. Specifically, a certain region or the entire region of the blood testing unit may be brought into direct or indirect contact with the blood testing apparatus, and the judgment as to the start point of the color forming reaction of the reagent layer may thus be made. As another alternative, a signal representing the start of the color forming reaction may be fed into the blood testing apparatus with a manual operation, which is performed simultaneously with the loading of the blood testing unit into the blood testing apparatus.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8439848 *Sep 4, 2008May 14, 2013Panasonic CorporationBlood testing device
WO2011041814A1 *Oct 7, 2010Apr 14, 2011Onkotec GmbhAnalysis device and method
Classifications
U.S. Classification436/169
International ClassificationB01L3/00, B01D39/16, G01N33/483, G01N21/78, G01N21/00, B01L3/14, G01N33/49, B01D71/68, G01N33/48
Cooperative ClassificationB01L3/50273, B01L2400/049, B01L2300/044, B01L2400/0633, B01L3/502, B01L3/5027, B01L2300/0681, B01L2300/047, B01L2300/042, B01L3/5082, B01L3/502753, B01L2200/082, B01L2300/0816, B01L2400/0406, G01N33/491, B01L3/50825
European ClassificationB01L3/5027, B01L3/50825, B01L3/502, G01N33/49C
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