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Home > News & Events > Australian scientists give red blood cell world’s tiniest mo
Credit: Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication and Monash University

Move over Tom Selleck and Merv Hughes (or should we say Timothee Chalamet and Harry Styles?) Australian Red Cross Lifeblood has teamed up with some very clever Australian scientists to grow a Mo so tiny it cannot be seen with the naked eye.

The Australian National Fabrication Facility’s Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN), Lifeblood and the Ramaciotti Centre for Cryo-Electron Microscopy at Monash University have put the world’s tiniest ‘Mo’ measuring just 5 microns on a single blood cell.

The microscopic ‘stache’ has been developed in support of global men’s health charity, Movember, and was designed to raise awareness of the vital role blood donation plays in men’s health.

According to Bernie Orelup, MCN’s Engineering & Operations Manager, the process to make the moustache is akin to constructing a miniature ‘Mr. Potato Head’ accessory. MCN engineers meticulously crafted the tiny ‘Mo’ by layering 3D printed polymer resin on a tiny stalk and delicately attaching it to a single red blood cell using a micro manipulator.

Once Lifeblood collected the cell from a volunteer blood donor in Melbourne (every blood donation contains 2.3 billion cells!), the team at MCN set to work to capture the image of the minuscule masterpiece using a remarkable instrument called a FIB-SEM.

MCN Process Engineer John Paul Teodosio, creating the micro 'Mo' using the NanoScribe GT2 3D printing system.
MCN Process Engineer Dr Vahid Adineh imaging a rather dapper red blood cell using FIB-SEM.

Before being placed in the microscope, the red cell was fixed to a gold coated slide by the team at Monash University and coated with a layer of metal about 15 nanometers thick.

‘FIB-SEM is capable of imaging structures as small as 1/10,000th of the width of a human hair, by employing high-energy beams of metal ions to etch and deposit tiny structures,’ explained Mr Orelup, ‘The intricate process, using state-of-the-art nanofabrication techniques, allowed us to create a symbol of support for men’s health that’s invisible to the naked eye but carries a powerful message.’

This November, Lifeblood is uniting with global men’s health charity Movember to champion men’s health and inspire millions of men across the country to donate blood or plasma.

‘Some of the top leading causes of illness for men in Australia – heart disease, lung and throat cancers, and blood clots (including strokes) — often require billions of blood cells just like this one during treatment,’ said Lifeblood spokesperson Alison Gould, 

‘Blood donation isn’t just a way of helping your mates, it is also a great way to get to know your own health while saving a life, with every donation including a check of your heart rate, blood pressure, and we also check iron store levels in new male donors,’

‘While this moustache is small, we’re hoping it can make a big impact and inspire a few men (and women) out there to give blood and do their bit for men’s health.’

Throughout November, anyone who donates blood will receive a limited-edition bandage designed by Movember co-founder and artist Travis Garone. 

‘Just when I thought I’d seen it all, a group of scientists come along and plant the world’s tiniest moustache on a red blood cell. What a brilliant campaign to show the critical role that blood donation plays in men’s health – and what a huge testament to the creativity and dedication of those who continue to fly the flag for men’s health. I’m honestly in awe of the innovation. It’s proof that the human spirit, when fuelled by purpose, knows no bounds. I hope that this tiny Mo raises some much-needed awareness and sparks some important actions for men’s health this Movember,’ said Mr Garone.

For more on the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood’s Movember partnership and videos on making the ‘Mo,’ visit Lifeblood’s website here