By squeezing two protein dots together, biomedical engineers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a microfluidic testing ground for platelet strength. The health assessment supports the diagnosis of blood clotting disorders.

After a blood clot forms, it contracts, promoting wound closure and restoration of normal blood flow. The process, however, is often deficient in a variety of blood clotting disorders.

The Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology scientists infer the strength of a patient's platelets by measuring the movement of protein dots, taking a picture, and then analyzing the image on a computer.

The dots are made of fibrinogen, a sticky protein that is the precursor for fibrin, which forms a mesh of insoluble strands in a blood clot.

The researchers also used chemical tools to dissect the process of platelet contraction. The team showed that inhibitors of Rho/ROCK enzymes shut down platelet contraction, but inhibitors of a related pathway, MLCK (myosin light chain kinase), did not. According to the scientists, individual platelet contraction could become an assay for development or refinement of blood thinning drugs.