New device to detect effect of alcohol on red blood cells may help understand drinking-related disorders

New device to detect effect of alcohol on red blood cells may help understand drinking-related disorders : The Tribune India

Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6

Scientists have developed a platform to detect the effect of prolonged exposure of red blood cells (RBC) to alcohol through high-resolution measurements of their size.

The high-resolution platform that shows the reduction in size of RBCs on alcohol exposure can be tuned for a point-of-care screening of multiple conditions that alter the size and count of RBCs in blood.

Although it is known that alcohol affects RBCs, the exact physiological changes are very subtle and difficult to measure. In order to overcome this challenge, scientists from the Raman Research Institute (RRI), have developed a custom-made electro-fluidic platform that can detect the change by measuring the cell size in enhanced resolution.

Cell volume changes are an important biomarker for multiple diseases, especially blood-related conditions.

Accurate measurement of volume changes of RBCs has applications in the detection as well as mechanistic studies of diseases such as sickle cell anaemia and malaria.

Similarly, small volume changes of RBCs could also be indicators of malnutrition in a cell. Results of the study may also be used to explain the lack of oxygen-carrying capability of RBC under alcohol exposure leading to blurred vision, muscular in coordination, and altered mental states from alcohol abuse, the Ministry of Science and Technology announced on Saturday.

The device made by the RRI team, led by Professor Gautam Soni, relies on pulse sensing principle. The team first developed techniques for making tiny micron (1/1000th of a millimetre) sized holes or micro-pores at the tip of a glass capillary with careful fabrication, flame polishing, and image verification.

Cells passing through the pore created very tiny electrical pulses, which give direct and most sensitive information of cell count and volume.

“Our lab had been working on building nano-fluidic single-molecule detectors for the past few years. We found that some of the ideas used in the nano-fluidic field may also be used in micro-fluidics in general and cell-biology in particular. We were pleasantly surprised with the reproducibility and resolution of our devices,” Professor Soni said.

With this work, the RRI team envisages that the high-resolution platform can be tuned for a point-of-care screening of several other blood-related conditions.

The study has also been published in ACS Sensors journal of the American Chemical Society.

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