Pioneering research out of Canberra could lead to more individualised treatment to prevent heart attacks or strokes, thanks to technology that can examine blood clots like never before.
Technology developed by scientists at the Australian National University can now measure the stickiness of a blood clot down to a single platelet via a 3D holographic livestream.
The technology can also measure a blood clot to within one nanogram, or one billionth of a gram, to assess a patient's level of risk for heart-related issues.
Researchers say the technology could even also be used to investigate symptoms related to COVID-19, such as lung failure caused by micro-blood clots in the capillaries.
The diagnostic device is small enough that it can fit on a small desk or bench space for medical experts to examine blood clots.
Research leader and biomedical imaging scientist at the Australian National University Dr Steve Lee said the technology could determine how blood clots behaved in the bloodstream on a micro scale.
This may look like the stuff of sci-fi, but this is a 3d hologram that can measure the weight and stickiness of blood clots, that's being developed out of ANU. It's hoped this can lead to more personalised treatment to prevent heart attacks or strokes pic.twitter.com/oUacWKKO9P— Andrew Brown (@AndrewBrownAU) February 25, 2021
"Platelets, which are a tenth of the size of a regular cell and are the major drivers of blood clot formation, move much like a circus performer walking along on a high wire," Dr Lee.
"[The technology] has a very fast and high-resolution imaging process with no labelling, so it can capture the behaviour of individual platelets before they clump together."
Previously, researchers only had one point of data for examining platelets in blood clots.
Thanks to the new technology, Dr Lee said there are now 10,000 points of data that can be looked at.
While blood clots are normally made up of thousands of platelets, they previously had not been able to be viewed individually.
Dr Lee said the technological advances meant personalised treatment plans could be developed for people more susceptible to conditions formed by blood clots.
"Treatment can be individualised in terms of age and different reactions to the clots," Dr Lee said.
"Everyone's clots are different and they have different reactions to different drugs, and before this, we couldn't tell apart how everyone's body reacted to a clot.
"We're now able to do different types of tests that weren't able to be done before...and we can tell different clots apart at a nano-scale."
Work had been ongoing to develop the new technology for the past three years, since a prototype was first made in 2018.
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Researchers can now be able to see a blood clot form in real time by seeing how the individual platelets move.
Work is now ongoing on trialing the technology with a range of patient samples.
It's hoped the technology could become commercialised within the next two years.
Dr Lee said he hoped the screening tools could be used to replace existing measurement instruments that look at blood clots.
"We've already gone to the next iteration of the system," he said.
The research has been published in the Biophysical Journal.
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