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A New Test Method Can Diagnose Asthma Using a Single Drop of Blood

The test works by gauging the speed of white blood cells.

asthma and blood

A 3D-rendering of a neutrophil. Image credit:BruceBlaus via Wikimedia Commons.

Although some symptoms of asthma are remarkably seen, for example, wheezing, it is still difficult to diagnose whether patient actually have asthma in the condition that when asthma happens without the presence of doctors who need to be engaged in relative tests for lung function and allergies for diagnosis of asthma.

However, the situation has changed now. There is one totally new test possibly capable of diagnosing asthma just by applying a single drop of blood. In the latest study, scientists have identified that as neutrophils (a type of white blood cell), in the asthmatic patients move quietly slowly than those in people who do not have asthma.

The researchers have invented kind of the micro-fluidic, handheld apparatus to identify how rapidly such neutrophils move towards the source of inflammation, because these white blood cells would move toward wounds in the body and offer assistance to the start of the healing process. However, neutrophils of asthmatics migrate very slowly in this respect.

Not long ago, using neutrophils to determine asthma was impractical, because a large amount of blood was necessary to do it. But based on the study by the researchers from the University of Wisconsin, it could be quite possible. The new apparatus made of cheap plastic, is able to identify how fast the white blood cells are moving and such detection of the speed would be much helpful in the of diagnosis of asthma automatically.

In the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists have confirmed that this apparatus could sort out neutrophils from a drop of whole blood within a few minutes. The new approach could be applied to the clinical diagnosis to characterize the asthmatic patients and those without.

With the further improvement, such apparatus could be widely used all over the country. According to the data of the CDC,  from the year of 2001 to 2009, the asthmatics in the US had increased by 4.3 million and more than 300 million people now are affected by asthma in the world as a whole.

Source: PNAS

Journal reference: Sackmann, Eric Karl-Heinz, et al. “Characterizing asthma from a drop of blood using neutrophil chemotaxis.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences111.16 (2014): 5813-5818.