New invention could improve covid-induced lung failure

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“COSI has a very fast and high-resolution imaging process with no labelling, so it can capture the behaviour of individual platelets before they clump together within seconds of being activated,” says Dr Steve Lee. Photo: Jamie Kidston, ANU.

A “WORLD-first” new invention from scientists at ANU promises to dramatically improve the screening and treatment of stroke, heart attack and covid-induced lung failure. 

According to the researchers, more than 2.5 million people have died globally since the start of the pandemic from the coronavirus – which can affect the lungs – with millions more dying each year from strokes and heart attacks. 

But now, scientists says the new portable technology, which uses a 3D holographic live stream, allows them to visualise clots that form in flowing blood, and could be vital to the study of micro-blood clots in capillaries involved in lung failure related to covid. 

By using the high-speed imaging technology, known as COSI (coherent optical scattering and interferometry), researchers say they can, for the first time, measure a blood clot’s “stickiness” and “optically weigh” it within a thousand millionth of a gram, to assess a person’s disease risk. 

ANU biomedical imaging scientist and research lead, Dr Steve Lee, says the new device advances the team’s breakthrough 2018 prototype diagnostic device and can now fit on a small desk or bench space in a hospital or healthcare setting.

Dr Steve Lee says that platelets, which are a tenth of the size of a regular cell and are the major driver of blood clot formation, move much like a “circus performer walking along on a high wire”.

The new technology revealed how individual platelets “grip and walk” along a collagen fibre under blood flow, Dr Lee says.  

“COSI has a very fast and high-resolution imaging process with no labelling, so it can capture the behaviour of individual platelets before they clump together within seconds of being activated,” Dr Lee says. 

Platelets move in an orchestrated way within a developing blood clot, before suddenly freezing due to the added chemical inhibitor added by Ms Yujie Zheng, the team’s lead PhD scholar. 

For Ms Zheng, it was a “eureka” moment.   

“That was a very exciting moment for us, because we could see these nanoscale events happening for the first time in a clot forming before our eyes,” she says.   

“We have now moved beyond the proof of principle and are trialling COSI on a variety of patient samples with NPRC medical researchers with the aim to commercialise the technology within two years,” Dr Lee says. 

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