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06 April 2017


New and improved treatments for blood diseases such as sepsis could soon be offered after scientists developed a system to study the resilience of red blood cells.

It follows the success of an international research team, which has built a novel Catch-Load-Launch microfluidic device that can monitor the resilience of red blood cells held in a narrow channel for different periods of time.

The team, led by Osaka University, found that the time for the red blood cell to spring back into shape was shorter when it was starved of adenosine triphosphate or exposed to endotoxins.

Writing in Scientific Reports, the team says this discovery could help to improve treatments for patients with diseases such as sepsis or malaria.

To study how erythrocytes spring back into shape after passing through a constriction, the researchers built a device that included a microchannel. This allowed a single erythrocyte to be in place for any length of time before being launched into a wider section using a robotic pump.

Co-author Makoto Kaneko said: 'The cell was precisely localised in the microchannel by the combination of pressure control and real-time visual feedback. This let us ‘catch’ an erythrocyte in front of the constriction, ‘load’ it inside for a desired time, and quickly ‘launch’ it from the constriction to monitor the shape recovery over time.'

The researchers found that the longer the erythrocyte was held in the constricted region, the time it took the cell to recover its normal shape also increased.

If there was a very short constriction time, the cells bounced back within one-tenth of a second. If it was held for more than three minutes, it took about 10 seconds for the cells to recover.

When they examined how the red blood cells’ recovery time was affected by a lack of ATP, they found that when they were deprived of the fuel, they took less time to recover.

Source: Ito H, Murakami R, Sakuma S et al. Mechanical diagnosis of human erythrocytes by ultra-high speed manipulation unraveled critical time window for global cytoskeletal remodelling Scientific Reports April 2017; doi: 10.1038/srep43134



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