Device measures risk of infection from a blood drop in minutes
5 December 2013
A team at the BioMEMS Resource Center at Massachusetts General
Hospital has developed a device to rapidly test for inflammation in
response to infection.
The miniaturized silicon-based
device can be used to measure accumulation of a type of white blood
cell called a neutrophil from just a finger prick of blood in a few
The most abundant type of white blood cell, neutrophils function primarily as the body’s first line
of defense against infection and inflammation. Within minutes of stimulation, neutrophils migrate from the blood
to tissue where they accumulate at sites of infection. One of the
most common lab tests ordered on a regular basis is the counting of
neutrophils in the blood (absolute neutrophil count).
“However, simply counting the neutrophils may not be enough in
many cases. If neutrophils do not migrate well and cannot reach
inside the tissues, this situation could have the same consequences
as a low neutrophil count,” says Dr Daniel Irimia, Assistant
Professor at the BioMEMS Resource Center at Massachusetts General
Hospital. “The device was designed such that probing neutrophil mobility
becomes extremely easy to perform.”
Current methods to measure neutrophil functions involve
separating the neutrophils from the whole blood. This separation
process can take up to two hours to prepare and execute by skilled
lab personnel. In a clinical context, such as cases of patients with
burn injuries, this is not ideal as priorities can shift quickly
throughout the day.
By being able to measure the risk for infections that a
particular patient has at a particular time, in a matter of minutes,
from just a droplet of blood, is a significant improvement and one
that will improve current treatment.