Microfluidic device used to monitor Sickle Cell Disease

Friday, March 2nd, 2012 7:44:06 by

Researchers from MIT, MGH, Harvard and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have invented a microfluidic device that can analyse the behaviour of blood samples collected from patients suffering from sickle cell disease.

More than 60 years ago, the main reason for sickle cell disease was discovered by scientists. People suffering from this disease produced crescent-shaped red blood cells that clog the capillaries instead of flowing smoothly like normal cells do.

This can cause a lot of pain and in the end, could even shorten a patient’s lifespan.

Later on, it was discovered that the disease results from a single mutation in the haemoglobin protein and deduced that this shape (sickle shape), is an evolutionary adaptation that could even prevent from malaria.

However, despite learning about a disease that affects almost 13 million people all over the world, few treatments are available.

“We still don’t have effective enough therapies and we don’t have a good feel for how the disease manifests itself differently in different people,” says Sangeeta Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical
Engineering and Computer Science at MIT.

Bhatia, MIT postdoc David Wood, and colleagues at Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have now devised a simple blood test that can predict whether sickle cell patients are at high risk for painful complications
of the disease. To perform the test, the researchers measure how well blood samples flow through a microfluidic device.

The device, described March 1 in the journal Science Translational Medicine, could help doctors monitor sickle cell patients and determine the best course of treatment, Bhatia says. It could also aid researchers in developing new drugs for the disease.


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