Device developed that can diagnose hemophilia A in emergencies

Testing for blood disorders is vital for ensuring that blood transfusions are safe

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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A researcher uses a microscope in a lab.

Scientists in Taiwan have created a new point-of-care device to diagnose hemophilia type A and determine a person’s blood type using just a small sample of blood.

The device “is especially suitable for usage in emergency or natural disasters to provide quantitative testing in rescue and relief operations,” the researchers wrote in “A portable point-of-care testing device for forward blood typing with hemophilia diagnosis,” which was published in Biomedical Microdevices.

In emergency situations, blood transfusions — where blood from a donor is infused into someone who needs it — can be lifesaving. In order to safely perform a transfusion, it’s important to know the blood type of both the donor and the recipient.

Blood types refer to specific markers on red blood cells. These cells can have a marker called A (type A), a marker called B (type B), both markers (type AB), or neither marker (type O). Red blood cells can also have or lack another marker called RhD, and are labeled as positive or negative.

If a person is given blood that has markers that aren’t normally in their body — for example, a person with type O blood is given blood from someone with type AB blood — the body can mistake the donated blood for an infectious threat, which can trigger a life-threatening inflammatory reaction.

Testing for blood disorders such as hemophilia can also be vital for ensuring that blood transfusions are done safely in people with these disorders.

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Determining blood type, test for hemophilia A

“Since hemophilia is an inherited bleeding disorder in which the blood does not clot properly due to a lack of sufficient blood-clotting proteins (clotting factors), it is important for doctors and nurses to know that patients have hemophilia prior to transfusion, especially in disaster emergency rescues,” wrote a trio of researchers at Chung Yuan Christian University, Taiwan who developed a device that can rapidly determine blood type and test for hemophilia type A, the most common form of the disease.

The device uses antibodies to screen for the A, B, and RhD markers on blood cells. Given that the binding of these antibodies to markers on the surface of red blood cells leads to cell clumping, or aggregation “the ABO blood type was determined by [aggregation] levels of the blood sample reacting with anti-A and anti-B [antibodies],” the researchers wrote.

“The degree of [aggregation] with anti-D [antibody] gave the Rh(D) type,” they added.

The device also measures levels of the clotting protein factor VIII, whose deficit causes hemophilia A. In addition to diagnosing hemophilia A, this can also provide information about the severity of the disease, the scientists said.

“The prime cost of this device is low,” and “simultaneous and on-site measurements of ABO and Rh(D) assays can be conducted using three disposable microfluidic chips,” the researchers wrote. Microfluidic chips are set of micro-channels molded or engraved into a material that allows tiny volumes of fluids to be manipulated and analyzed.

To make it easier for emergency crews to carry out the tests, the device was designed so it doesn’t require any additional scientific equipment to run. “This portable [point-of-care testing] device is especially suitable for usage in emergency or natural disasters to provide quantitative testing in rescue and relief operations,” the scientists wrote.