|2017 Nandurkar group, three of whom are authors on the article|
describing their device for measuring platelet function.
Monash and RMIT scientists have edged closer to refining a device that will rapidly measure platelet function in the blood of people with von Willebrand's disease (vWD), the most common inherited bleeding disorder in Western populations. The device will also act as a high-throughput screening tool for other blood platelet disorders and new drug discovery.
The microfluidic tool, the result of a collaboration with RMIT University’s Microplatforms Research Group, and Micro Nano Research Facility (MNRF), will improve on existing screening options, according to a paper that appeared recently in the journal 'Lab on a Chip'.
Its microchannel architecture has been specifically designed to allow for continuous real-time imaging of platelet aggregation (clumping) dynamics. Platelets help form blood clots.
It was tested in 12 people aged 18 years or over with previously diagnosed vWD or who presented for evaluation of a bleeding disorder, where the possible diagnosis included vWD.
First author, PhD student Rose Brazilek from the Central Clinical School's Australian Centre for Blood Diseases (ACBD), said the researchers had used vWD for its large sample cohort and because it currently had poor clinical diagnostics but that they were hoping to expand it to look at cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other platelet function disorders.
Ms Brazilek said the results demonstrated that the device had several advantages over standard clinical laboratory-based tests, including that it used very small volumes of blood. Blood is forced through a central channel that measures about 40 microns, a ‘micro-contraction’ that activates the platelets, causing them to aggregate. This allows the user to measure the aggregation and accurately detect the ability of a patient’s blood to clot normally.
“When a patient comes in to Emergency for example, you want a device that’s quick because if they are bleeding you want to make sure that they don’t have a blood disorder – especially if they need emergency surgery,” Ms Brazilek said.
The device, which has been through several iterations, two previous papers and which has been patented, will eventually improve sensitivity and specificity to more accurately measure clotting ability, will be easy and quick to use and inexpensive to produce, she said.
“It’s had a lot of interest at conferences because it’s a relatively new application using relatively new ideas on how mechanical forces affect platelet function,” she said. “It’s still early days though – we haven’t validated it to the point where it can be used clinically.”
Engineers working in the Microplatforms Research Group and MNRF led by Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell, have been refining the tool while Monash University scientists including Ms Brazilek work on the biology. Her supervisor and the lead author is Senior Research Fellow Dr Warwick Nesbitt.
Ms Brazilek is doing the first year of an accelerated PhD and is interested in pursuing a career in haemotology combining basic science and clinical translation.
The paper was supported by a Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellowship held by Dr Nesbitt from RMIT.
Brazilek RJ, Tovar-Lopez FJ, Wong AKT, Tran H, Davis AS, McFadyen JD, Kaplan Z, Chunilal S, Jackson SP, Nandurkar H, Mitchell A, Nesbitt WS. Application of a strain rate gradient microfluidic device to von Willebrand's disease screening. Lab Chip. 2017, 17, 2595.