Pin-prick test could pick early signs of heart attack, stroke

Pin prick test can pick up early signs of heart attack, stroke

Every year about 55,000 people have a heart attack in Australia, and a similar number suffer a stroke.

Many are caused by blood clots that block blood flow to the heart, often in at-risk individuals without any physical warning.

However, long before a heart attack or stroke occurs, small changes in the blood begin to take place. Often, blood flow is disrupted, leading to blood clotting and inflammation, which can block blood vessels.

University of Sydney biomedical engineer Dr Arnold Lining Ju is developing a biomedical microdevice to detect these subtle changes in platelets before a heart attack or stroke occurs.

Using a pinprick test, the microdevice would take a blood sample from a person’s finger. The sample would then be analyzed for platelet clotting and white cell inflammatory responses, information that would be immediately processed by an external operating system.

“How this device would work is that a person at risk, say someone with a heart condition, would use it on a daily basis,” says Ju from the Sydney Nanoscience Hub and the Faculty of Engineering.

Dr Arnold Lining Ju in the lab.

“Using a fingerstick test, the device would check their blood and alert them to potentially dangerous changes. If a change was detected, they would have to present themselves for more monitoring in a hospital,” said Ju, who is also a group affiliate of the Thrombosis Group of the Heart Research Institute.

The new facilities of the University’s School of Biomedical Engineering will enable further technical development of the microdevice, which is based on an integrated microfluidic chip.

Ju is working with a team of PhD students to build highly sensitive computational fluid dynamics simulations to better understand the impact of mechanical forces that can lead to blood pooling and clots.

Biomedical Engineering student Yunduo Charles Zhao said: “In the near future, we plan to apply artificial intelligence to understand a person’s blood work with the aim of creating a personal blood profile of that person.”

Research assistant Laura Moldovan said it has historically been difficult to predict when a heart attack or stroke might occur: “They seem to happen randomly, sometimes with no physical symptoms; in fact, however, there are small physical changes that occur in the blood — the key to this device is being able to sensitively monitor these microscopic changes.”

The study is part of a long-standing collaboration with the Director of Cardiovascular Research, CPC of the Heart Research Institute, Professor Shaun Jackson.

The team’s recent work, Microfluidic Post-Method for 3-dimensional Modeling of Platelet-Leukocyte Interactions, was recently published in the Royal Society of Chemistry

Images courtesy of the University of Sydney.

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