Baby Tears: Assessing Nutrition in Infants

Institution: Michigan Technological University
Funders (23)
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Why This Project Is Important 

Balanced and sustained nutrition is vital to the healthy development of children. The knowledge gained from this research may lead to an ultrafast, ultrasmall device utilizing tears to assess infant vitamin levels as a measure of overall nutrition. We will enhance our understanding of the chemical makeup of human tears and advance technology for their noninvasive sampling and analysis.

Project Description 

The purpose of this project is to complete vitamin-level tests on infants using tears and blood plasma. Blood plasma is currently the established medical test for measuring vitamins; however our preliminary results indicate that vitamins can also be detected in a single teardrop. We aim to see if the vitamin levels in tears correlate with the vitamin levels in blood plasma. The Gerber Foundation is funding a small clinical trial with 45 infants ranging from newborn to 12 months of age. Adult participants are asked to fill out a nutritional questionnaire because young infants are highly dependent upon breastfeeding mothers or their guardians for nutrition. However, without your added support, adult nutrition will not be directly assessed. Additional resources are needed from your support to fund the tear analysis component to correlate infant and adult vitamin levels. Studies have repeatedly confirmed the importance of good nutrition; vitamin D deficiencies, for example, have been found in obese children, and have also been linked to poor verbal development. The proposed project is a preliminary, explorative study, yet it has a high chance of success. Once vitamin levels in small volumes of tears are correlated to blood plasma tests, a lab-on-a-chip (a coin-sized chip capable of performing one or more medical laboratory tests) detection device will allow widespread and low-cost clinical assessment of children. Donations will fund supplies for sampling mother/guardian tears at Portage Pediatric Clinic, the analysis of those tears, and an undergraduate student to perform the additional laboratory procedures for these samples.

Meet the Researcher

Adrienne Minerick

Adrienne R. Minerick joined the faculty at Michigan Tech as an associate professor in 2009. She was previously an associate professor and assistant professor at Mississippi State University.
Minerick's primary area of research is electrokinetics with a focus on medical microdevices, blood cell dynamics, and point of care diagnostics. Her group's primary area of specialty is dielectrophoresis which utilizes nonuniform AC fields to manipulate polarizable cells and other dielectric biomaterials.
She has received numerous honors and awards, including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2007, the Raymond W. Fahien Award, Chemical Engineering Division, American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) in 2011 New Investigator Research Award from Sigma Xi Chapter in 2009 and one from ASEE-SE in 2008. She has earned 4 best paper awards and was the recipient of the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Award, Oak Ridge Associated Universities in 2004. She has published two book chapters,more than 20 publications, and more than 40 technical papers or conference proceedings papers.
Minerick currently serves as the President of the American Electrophoresis Society ( She also serves on the Board of the Women in Engineering Division of the American Society of Engineering Education, is the newsletter editor for the Chemical Engineering division and previously had leadership roles in the New Engineering...

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of $10,000 fund goal
The average donation for this project is $109
days left
Funding is Closed

What Your Donation Can Help Us Do: 

  • Test if a single teardrop can provide valid nutrition data
  • Develop an ultrasmall, ultrafast lab-on-a-chip for teardrop analysis

$1+ 23 Funders

Receipt acknowledging tax deductible status of your donation.

$25+ 21 Funders

All of the above, plus name listed among our donors in our annual report.

$50+ 11 Funders

All of the above, plus a photo of the team working in the lab.

$100 (2/50)

All of the above, plus a T-shirt.

$250+ 3 Funders

All of the above, acknowledgement in publications from the project and signed copies of all journal articles.

$500+ 2 Funders

All of the above, plus a presentation and question-and-answer session with the team by phone, Skype, or in person at the University.

$1,000 (1/10)

All of the above, plus a custom-fabricated microfluidic device with your name (or other) written in channels.

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