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.

The microfluidic device diagnoses bleeding disorders. By squeezing two protein dots, platelet strength is revealed.
(Credit: Emory University/Georgia Tech)

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.