Platelets are an important component of blood’s clotting mechanism. When platelets are not aggregating as well as they should, there might be a need for a platelet transfusion during clinical care. Platelet functionality is hard to determine quickly with current methods, but researchers at the University of Washington have developed a microfluidic device that can directly assess how well the platelets are doing.
The device produces results within about two minutes, which is fast enough in most cases to let clinicians decide a timely course of action. “Our system requires a tiny amount of blood to look at how healthy platelets are in real time,” said Nathan Sniadecki, an associate professor in the UW Department of Mechanical Engineering, and one of the leads of the research. “We found that platelet function is a far better measure of platelet health and whether a trauma patient will need a blood transfusion than current methods.”
The microfluidic device features tiny walls and posts behind them. As the platelets encounter a wall and flow around it, they tend to stick to the post that’s just on the other side. As more and more platelets stick to the post, they end up reaching out to the wall. Eventually, the cluster of platelets end up trying to pull the wall and post together. Because the post has a little sensor on it, the device can measure the force that the platelets are applying to the post. All this happens within about two minutes and an objective result is provided that can help decide whether to push on with a transfusion.
Here’s a University of Washington video with Sniadecki describing how the technology works:
Study in Nature Communications: Contractile forces in platelet aggregates under microfluidic shear gradients reflect platelet inhibition and bleeding risk…