New technique spots thrombosis in a single drop of blood

Micro-resonators take measurements in real-time and deliver diagnosis of risk of thrombosis and bleeding in seconds.

A team of researchers have found a way to use a single drop of blood to tell if a patient is at a risk of bleeding or thrombotic risk.

Longevity.Technology: Early detection saves lives, this process will form part of regular routine screening, meaning it would have a real impact on lifespan and healthspan – picking up cancers, bleed susceptibility as well as thrombosis risk.

The TRL score for this Longevity.Technology domain is currently set at: ‘Principles are demonstrated through experimentation.’

The TRL score for the technology addressed in this article is: “Late proof of concept demonstrated in real-life conditions.”

A thrombosis is a blood clot that forms inside a blood vessel; it obstructs the flow of blood and if parts break off and travel to other regions in the body, they can cause a myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, a stroke, limb ischaemia (where a limb is starved of blood and therefore oxygen causing tissue death) or other dangerous complications.

Thrombosis can be caused by disease or injury, by obesity, by a fracture or immobility, autoimmune disorders or by circulation issues. It can also arise from a genetic predisposition and the older the person, the greater the chance of developing a thrombosis [1].

The more sedentary lifestyle a person leads, the greater the risk of thrombosis; add to this the increasing risk associated with aging, and a way to quickly and easily assess this risk would appear to be an essential piece of kit for any medical facility.

Professor Martin Hegner of the Centre of Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) at Trinity College Dublin was the research leader. The automated diagnostic platform assesses changing strength of blood plasma, clotting time, specific factor deficiency and global coagulation parameters on a nano scale. The assay is so detailed it allows clinicians to fine-tune anti-coagulation treatment and factor replacement [2].

The diagnostic platform has benefits beyond assessing haemostasis, however. The Trinity team worked with Hoffmann-La Roche, the Swiss multinational healthcare company, in using the platform for quantitative diagnostics of expression patterns of non-coding short RNA in blood plasma or cell cultures [3].

Non-coding short RNA is transcribed from DNA, but not used to link amino acids into protein chains. Instead it plays an important role in epigenetic regulation and when epigenetic regulation is disrupted it can cause cancer; significant changes in the epigenetic landscape are an alarm bell that can alert clinicians to the presence of cancer [4].

The Trinity-Roche collaboration was able to detect label-free specific miRNA biomarkers relevant to cancer quickly and reliably [5]. This paves the way for diagnostic platforms that can provide a speedy and non-invasive diagnosis of cancer, meaning the process will be cheaper and more widely-available. The possibility of further miniaturising the platform would mean a portable version could be used for diagnosis in clinics and out in the field [6].