Blood clots can cause heart attacks

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EACH year, about 80,000 people in Germany become seriously ill from occlusions of veins caused by blood clots. Such thromboses can cause pulmonary embolism or even heart attacks. Even airline passengers at long distance flights can be affected by deep vein thrombosis. But with the new system, a fast and easy test of a risk of travel-related thrombosis will soon be possible.
Airline passengers would only have to relinquish one drop of blood to the measuring device. The special feature of this miniscale lab-on-a-chip: the system is designed in plastic for an inexpensive production, sheets or reel-to-reel.
This would facilitate cost-efficient manufacturing of disposable diagnostic systems. Such tiny analysis systems are still science fiction. In the EU project DVT-Imp, researchers from eight European countries are developing essential foundations for the laboratory on the plastic chip.
“This example shows clearly the possibilities for polytronics. In a networked world, oriented towards people, inexpensive, multifunctional systems are needed — for example in Assisted Living.
In order to build up the infrastructure necessary for this, electronic systems have to be produced in large quantities, in a cost-effective manner on large substrates. And with polymer electronics, this would be perfectly possible,” says Prof. Karlheinz Bock, head of the “Polytronic Systems” division at IZM.
Polytronic, resp. polymer electronics, is a key technology that combines functional materials and electronics. A major advantage is the simple and inexpensive production: the polymer materials can be dissolved and then, like electronic ink, be recaptured through a printing process, structured on flexible sheets.
“In this manner, we can construct small, handy and easy-to-use systems that for the most part make life easier for the sick and elderly,” explains Bock.
Assiduously at work on the engineering of the diagnostic systems for deep vein thrombosis are ten leading European research institutes and high tech firms. The core of the future analytical device, a lab-on-chip, was built and tested at IZM.
Inside the sensor chamber, the antibodies are integrated on electrodes that allow to analyze the concentration of blood clotting markers. If the number is elevated, then the risk of a thrombus — i.e. a blood clot — is forming.
But this system can be an important life companion not only for thrombosis-prone passengers on long-distance flights or stroke patients, but also for smokers, pregnant women or the obese.

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