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Getting Better Control over Blood Clotting

Scientists have devised a better way to test blood’s clotting tendency, also known as hemostasis, and that could one day prove lifesaving in a situation where a patient’s health is jeopardized by abnormal blood coagulation and platelet function.

The advance, reported in Nature Communications, takes a biophysical approach to assaying blood by subjecting blood samples to the same fluid shear stresses and force gradients it experiences inside a patient’s vascular network. It can be used with blood samples or potentially be integrated into patients’ blood flow lines, so that one day clinicians could have the foresight they need to prevent life-threatening events such as blood clotting or internal hemorrhaging.

The research was conducted by scientists from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University

The team, led by Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., has developed a novel microfluidic device in which blood flows through a life-like network of small “vessels”, where it is subjected to true-to-life shear stresses and force gradients of the human vascular network. Using automated pressure sensors and a proprietary algorithm developed by the Wyss team, data acquired from the device is analyzed in real-time, precisely predicting the time at which a certain blood sample will obstruct the blood vessel network.

Known clinically as hemostasis, the body’s ability to stop bleeding is critical for survival. For a patient who has a blood clotting disorder or medical condition requiring the use of anticoagulation and antiplatelet drugs, or someone who requires treatment with extracorporeal devices that circulate their blood outside of their body, it is essential that care providers can rapidly monitor their body’s ability to maintain healthy hemostasis while preventing clotting.

“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,” said Abhishek Jain, Ph.D., a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wyss Institute and the Division of Hemostasis and Thrombosis at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, and the lead author on new study. “By mimicking the physics of blood clotting in our device more precisely, we hope this technology can one day be used to save lives.”

The device contains hollow channels that mimic the pathology of the narrowing of small blood vessels, which occurs in patients as a side effect of medical conditions or treatments and can often cause a shift in the fluid mechanics of blood flow that can lead to life-threatening blood clots or internal bleeds.

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