Sickle cell disease is a hereditary disorder that affects red blood cells, distorting their natural disc shape into a crescent moon or "sickle" shape. Normal red blood cells move freely through small vessels throughout the body to deliver oxygen. With sickle cell disease, the misshapen red blood cells become hard and sticky, making it difficult for them to move through blood vessels.
They eventually block the flow and break apart. This process results in a number of problems including severe chronic pain, stroke, organ damage, spleen dysfunction, heart failure and even death.
Current methods to detect and monitor sickle cell disease rely mainly on optical microscopy, which is time-consuming, causes delays in capturing important changes, and moreover, does not capture changes in real-time. Morphological changes due to repeated cell sickling events may lead to permanent cell damage. To effectively manage sickle cell disease, time is of the essence.
Top right inset shows a representative signal from the microfluidic impedance sensor, which is shown in the lower right corner. The sensor generates the signal as shown by the curve in the inset and offers capacity for microscopic observation of cell conditions.
Products and exhibitors around laboratory technology
Exhibitors and products related to this topic can be found in the catalogue of MEDICA:
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University's College of Engineering and Computer Science have developed a rapid and reliable new method to continuously monitor sickle cell disease using a microfluidics-based electrical impedance sensor. Results of the study show that this novel technology can characterize the dynamic cell sickling and unsickling processes in sickle blood without the use of microscopic imaging or biochemical markers.
With this method, Sarah E. Du, Ph.D., senior author and an assistant professor in FAU's Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering, and co-authors from FAU's College of Engineering and Computer Science and the University of Miami, were able to characterize the rate of cell sickling and the percentage of sickled cells, which are important contributing factors of abnormal blood flow and sickle cell vaso-occlusion. Vaso-occlusion causes acute pain in patients due to altered forms of hemoglobin.
"The combination of electrical impedance measurement and on-chip hypoxia control provides a promising method for rapid assessment of the dynamic processes of cell sickling and unsickling in patients with sickle cell disease," said Du. "In addition, electrical impedance measurement is naturally quantitative, real-time, and offers a convenience in direct or indirect contact with the samples of interest, allowing integrations to microfluidics platform and optical microscopy."
Findings from the study show that simultaneous microscopic imaging of morphological changes in the cell demonstrated the reliability and repeatability of the electrical impedance-based measurements of cell sickling and unsickling processes.
In the study, the researchers also established the correlations between the in vitro measurements and the patients' hematological parameters, such as the levels of sickle hemoglobin (HbS) and fetal hemoglobin (HbF). These findings show a potential clinical relevance because it serves as a proof-of-concept of electrical impedance as a label-free, biophysical marker of cell sickling events as well as a sensitive tool for probing the dynamic cellular and subcellular processes beyond the optical microscopy. The developed electrical impedance sensor may potentially be used for assessing vaso-occlusion risk, disease severity, and therapeutic treatment in sickle cell disease.
MEDICA-tradefair.com; Source: Florida Atlantic University