‘Life-saving’ device can predict your chances of a blood clot

News & Analysis

8th January 2016

Scientists have developed a method of detecting the likelihood of hemostasis — or blood clotting — earlier than current tests are able to, according to a report in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, led by Donald Ingber, say that this new method could be lifesaving.

The new test subjects blood samples to the same fluid stresses and pressures they would experience inside a patient’s vascular network. It can be carried out on blood samples or potentially internally. The researchers behind the test say that it could provide clinicians with a tool that will enable them to prevent life-threatening blood clots.

The ‘microfluidic’ device is able to test blood in conditions similar to those found inside the human body. It analyses the data gathered in real-time and predicts precisely when any given blood sample will obstruct the blood vessel network.

The hollow channels in the device mimic the narrowing in small blood vessels, which can occur in patients with medical conditions and can cause a change in blood flow that can lead to life-threatening blood clots or internal bleeding.

Abhishek Jain, the study’s lead author, said: ‘The physics of what’s happening inside our bodies is a major contributor to the reasons why blood clots form or why clotting fails during surgeries, traumas, or extracorporeal medical procedures. By mimicking the physics of blood clotting in our device more precisely, we hope this technology can one day be used to save lives.’

Donald Ingber, the director of the Wyss Institute, said: ‘By combining our fabricated microfluidic device that mimics blood flow dynamics of small arterioles with our novel data analysis software, we can rapidly quantitate hemostasis in real-time and predict if blood clots will develop in an individual or blood sample.’

In an experiment carried out on animals, the researchers perfused blood directly from a living vessel into their device, and found that their clotting time predictions were far more accurate than the tests that are currently widely used.