Researchers at Texas A&M University have developed a microfluidic device that mimics the complex architecture of vasculature to better study blood clot treatments. The device includes channels with spirals, bends, and curves that are similar to those found in blood vessels, and which can influence blood clotting. Besides being biomimetic, the device is also faster and less expensive than existing blood clot testing technologies, and does not require a skilled technician to operate it.
Blood clots are involved in numerous diseases, from strokes to heart attacks and specific clotting disorders such as hemophilia. Researchers are therefore interested in studying factors that influence clotting and identifying new treatments to reduce or promote it.
The tortuous shapes of blood vessels can influence the fluid dynamics of blood flowing through them, and can activate or significantly influence blood clotting. However, most devices used to study or detect blood clotting do not account for this, and instead are based purely on the chemical mechanism underlying clotting.
“They do not incorporate the flow through the naturally turning and twisting blood vessels, which are physical regulators of blood clotting,” said Abhishek Jain, a researcher involved in the study. “Therefore, the readouts from these current static systems are not highly predictive, and often result in false positives or false negatives.”
This device’s purpose is to model these complex curves and spirals and mimic a diseased vascular microenvironment, so as to more accurately investigate blood clotting and identify effective treatments for clotting disorders. The device allows clinicians to measure platelet and fibrin content and coagulation in a blood sample and could be used to test new drugs intended to treat clotting disorders.
Compared with existing chemical techniques to study blood clotting, the device can provide a result very rapidly, taking just 10–15 minutes, and requires only a small volume of blood. So far, the researchers have tested their device with patients using an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, for whom blood clotting is a risk.
“The margin for error is essentially zero for these patients,” said Jain. “Therefore, it’s imperative that all the tests, not just clotting tests, must work and provide clinicians with quick and reliable information about their patient so they can provide the best care possible.”
Study in Scientific Reports: Tortuosity-powered microfluidic device for assessment of thrombosis and antithrombotic therapy in whole blood
Source: Texas A&M University