Researchers at the University of Washington have created a new system to measure platelet performance within two minutes. This could help clinicians determine if a patient will need a life saving blood transfusion. To perform the test, a blood sample is injected into the microfluidic device. As the blood flows through it, it encounters obstacles that activate the platelets, which then snowball creating a mini plug between the obstacles. The force of the plug causes the obstacles to move together and the measurement of this movement determines platelet function. The team's research was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.
“Our system requires a tiny amount of blood to look at how healthy platelets are in real time,” says Nathan Sniadecki, an associate professor in the University of Washington Department of Mechanical Engineering and co-corresponding author. “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.”
From the University of Washington article: "To test their device, the researchers recruited participants from Harborview Medical Center. After providing informed consent, 93 trauma patients and 10 healthy participants had their blood sampled when they arrived at the center.
The results showed a significant difference between the healthy participants’ blood and that of the trauma patients. Trauma patients’ platelets had decreased forces compared to healthy participants’ platelets. Of the trauma patients, 17 required a blood transfusion during their first 24 hours in the hospital. These patients also had the lowest platelet forces compared to the trauma patients who didn’t receive a transfusion.
Sometimes trauma patients have fewer platelets, so one current test in the ER is to count the number of platelets. But when the researchers looked at platelet count for this study, all blood samples — including those from healthy participants — had a comparable number of platelets."
Read more about the device that measures platelet health in real time at University of Washington.