Rapid diabetes inflammation profiling using a drop of blood

(Clockwise from top left) Research team members Asst Prof Hou Han Wei, Asst Prof Holden Li, Dr Chayakorn Petchakup and Tay Hui Min showing different assembly stages of the microfluidic device. Credit: NTU.

Diabetes mellitus is a worldwide epidemic where individuals experience high blood sugar and chronic inflammation that can lead to damage in the nerves, eyes, kidneys and other organs. Patients with early-onset diabetes before the age of 45 are particularly likely to experience rapid worsening of the condition, which can be helped by early intervention and immune health checking.

Hence, a team of researchers at NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, led by Asst Prof Hou Han Wei and Asst Prof Holden Li, has developed a microfluidic device that can electrically measure the status of a person’s immune health within minutes.

The low-cost “sample-in-answer-out” device requires only a drop of blood to take thousands of white blood cell electrical impedance measurements, which are indicative of biomechanical changes in the cells during immune response or when exposed to high glucose concentrations.

The microfluidic device can analyse the status of a person’s immune health in minutes. Credit: NTU.

The researchers hope that their invention may someday facilitate treatments tailored to individual patients and lead to improved diabetes management.

Details of the research can be found in “Integrated inertial-impedance cytometry for rapid label-free leukocyte isolation and profiling of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs)”, published in Lab on a Chip (2019), DOI: 10.1039/c9lc00250b.
The article appeared first in NTU’s research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #16, February 2020). 

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