Micro-system for pharmaceutical testing

A new, automated medical pathology laboratory has been scaled down to the size of a chip, to enable doctors to find alternatives to anti-blood clotting medications.

The tiny device is a biocompatible lab-on-a-chip, will enable the development of methods to prevent the formation of blood clots and reducing the risk of excessive, life-threatening bleeding.

“We’ve combined a deep understanding of the biology of blood with precision microfabrication engineering and design, to deliver a device that can work with whole blood and produce reliable results,” said lead investigator, Dr Warwick Nesbitt, of RMIT and Monash University.

The team from the Haematology Micro-platforms group at the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases (ACBD) had to design a system that could perform in the difficult environment of blood medicine.

“We’ve combined a deep understanding of the biology of blood with precision microfabrication engineering and design, to deliver a device that can work with whole blood and produce reliable results,” said Nesbitt.

The device includes a series of micropumps and analysis tools to test how chemical compounds effect blood clots.

“We hope this powerful new tool will give researchers an edge in delivering better and safer anti-clotting treatments, to improve the health and wellbeing of millions around the world,” said Nesbitt.

The chip itself contains channels, valves, processors, and pumps that can precisely and flexible manipulate fluids to determine how drug compounds attack blood clots. The device can then tell which compounds will be most effective in a few minutes, rather than via a process that normally takes days.

“Our device enables researchers to send hundreds of potential combinations through the system, mixing them with blood extremely rapidly and delivering results in just a few minutes,” said RMIT’s Micro Nano Research Facility director, Distinguished Professor Arnan Mitchell.

“Small, targeted, automated and precise – it’s the future of drug development technology.”