Spinal Solution – Developing a modular fluid testing device to detect cerebrospinal fluid in the ER

By Ethan Sean Chan
Intermediate Category (Grades 9-10)
Innovation | Chemistry, Engineering and Computer Science

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a clear, colourless fluid located along the exterior of the brain and spinal cord with the principal function to protect the central nervous system from foreign bodies. CSF leakage occurs when CSF is present outside of the meninges, a set of membranes that envelop the brain and spinal cord, often the result of head injury or sinus surgery. In an ER setting, it is vital to rapidly isolate CSF leakage from other fluids such as mucus and blood in trauma patients to avoid possible life-altering side effects such as meningitis and brain damage. Current CSF detection methods often result in false positives and negatives in the halo sign test, a rudimentary chromatography based test consisting of qualitatively observing the separation of CSF from other fluids to determine leakage, or are too time and resource restrictive in a trauma ward setting in the case of CT scans.

To aid in CSF detection, a modular fluid testing device was developed to quantify chemical concentrations by measuring properties of visible and ultraviolet light absorption, emittance, and reflectance. The current application is for the rapid and standardized detection of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) leakage in the ER by leveraging computational power to quantify a reaction between the protein lactoferrin, a model for a protein present in CSF, and gold (III) chloride.

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