ERJ staff report (TP)
Massachusetts − Scientists have created a silicone-based device that is able to detect a person's risk of infection from a drop of blood within minutes, as opposed to current methods, which can take up to two hours, reported Honor Whiteman for Medical News Today.
One common laboratory test to determine an individual's risk of infection is the counting of neutrophils in the blood, known as absolute neutrophil count.
Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell found in human blood. According to researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital who conducted the study, neutrophils are the "body's first line of defence" against inflammation and infection.
They explain that within minutes of detecting infection, the neutrophils flee from the blood toward tissue, where they settle at the sites of infection.
However, Dr. Daniel Irmia, assistant professor at the BioMEMS Resource Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that in many cases, it may not be enough to just count the neutrophils.
"If neutrophils do not migrate well and cannot reach inside the tissues, this situation could have the same consequences as a low neutrophil count," he adds.
With this in mind, the investigators created a "miniaturised silicone-based device" that they say is able to measure migration patterns of neutrophils from a finger prick of blood, and this can be carried out within a matter of minutes.
The researchers say that methods currently used to measure the functions of neutrophils involve separating them from the blood.
This process can take two hours, and the investigators say that the procedure needs to be conducted by skilled laboratory personnel.
They say this poses a problem within clinical conditions, such as treating cases of patients with burn injuries, as the process is time-consuming and medical professionals' priorities change throughout the day.
They conclude that being able to measure patients' risk of infections in a matter of minutes from only a droplet of blood is a "significant improvement and one that will improve current treatment."
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Full story from Medical News Today