This 20 pound box the size of a toaster can change the way people are diagnosed, instantly detecting "everything from infections, to stress, blood cells, cancer markers," and even the quality of food. It's called Microflow.
Sounds like a device from Star Trek or out of Tony Stark's laboratory, but it's real and NASA is going to test it on board the International Space Station.
The device is a miniaturised version of a flow cytometer, which until now were huge machines weighing hundred of pounds. The machine uses lasers and sensors to count cells, sort them, and detect all sorts of biomarkers in a liquid like blood. According to NASA, it works in real time, giving a diagnostic in just ten minutes.
Made by National Optics Institute External of Quebec City, Canada, this version of the Microflow is made to work in space, where the lack of gravity affects the behavior of liquids. In the ISS, the Microflow will help keep astronauts and cosmonauts under close medical control. Since there's no resident Dr. McCoy (yet), the long duration of the missions makes it impossible for men and women to receive medical diagnostics in orbit. The Microflow will fix that.
Its uses on Earth, however, would be a lot more interesting for everyone. First, its tiny size and reduced cost would allow for people everywhere to enjoy instant diagnosis of cancers and infections. They could also be deployed quickly in disaster areas, where it's hard to get current laboratory equipment.
Another use is the analysis of food, in both small farms and large agricultural sites, detecting any potentially dangerous germs instantly. We may not have a tricorder yet, but this is next-best thing. [NASA]