Knowing how well a patient’s immune system is functioning may be very useful in diagnosing a disease and guiding the course of therapy. Researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore are making this a reality, having developed a hybrid chip that assesses the health of white blood cells in a whole blood sample.
The microfluidic chip has a series of components that separate white blood cells from all the other components of blood. Thousands of cells can be processed in just a few minutes thanks to a mechanism resembling a coin sorting machine. Impedance sensors within the device are used to analyze individual white cells, which indirectly measure the size of the cell. White blood cells that are unhealthy tend to be larger in size and have different membrane consistencies, and therefore electrical impedance that is significantly out of line compared with that of healthy cells. There are no biomarkers, antibodies, or other chemicals involved in the process, making it cheap and easy to conduct.
Since they are the main component of the body’s immune system, knowing the state of white blood cells can be indicative of how the entire immune system is doing and point to other related conditions.
Using blood from healthy individuals and those with diabetes, the researchers were able to show that they can quickly assess the health of white blood cells.
Currently, the device is designed for use in the laboratory, but it can certainly be modified and optimized to be a portable diagnostic.
Study in Biosensors & Bioelectronics: Label-free leukocyte sorting and impedance-based profiling for diabetes testing