Virchow's triad identifies the three principle parameters driving haemostasis and thrombosis as: i. Changes in vessel wall properties and exposure of subendothelial matrix proteins; ii. Presentation of blood borne chemical activators (hypercoaguability); and iii.Blood-flow dependent mechanical factors (haemodynamics). Studies identifying a key role for micro-scale shear gradients in driving the earliest stages of platelet thrombus formation have informed the development of a novel set of microfluidic devices that have potential utility as rapid and efficient screening tools of shear dependent platelet function.


The aim of this project was to undertake a small scale clinical and laboratory based characterisation study of a microfluidic platform designed by us and to assess its ability to identify differences in platelet aggregation dynamics in citrated whole blood taken from control subjects and subjects with clinically diagnosed or undiagnosed von Willebrand disease (Types 1, 2 and 3).


Patients with VWD were recruited from the haemophilia outpatient clinic, Alfred hospital. Whole blood samples (250mL) or samples treated ex vivo to block the canonical platelet amplification loop pathways were perfused at a defined flow rate (45ml/mL) through a set of well defined micro-shear gradient geometries pre-coated with purified VWF to initiate platelet capture. Microfluidic geometries were characterised by an entry shear rate of 1,800.s-1, that was accelerated to a peak shear rate of either 45,000.s-1 or 150,000.s-1, returning to an exit shear rate of 1,800.s-1. The rate of initial shear acceleration was varied using a series of geometries with contraction entry angles varying from 15 - 85o.


The microfluidic platform was able to identify patients with Types 1 (VWF antigen < 30%), 2A and 3 VWD. ROC analysis of control versus VWD samples determined that the device sensitivity approached 94.4%, with a specificity of 100% for VWD. A statistically significant difference (p< 0.05) was observed when comparing control blood samples to type 1VWD (p< 0.001) and type 2A VWD samples (p=0.004), with both subtypes showing minimal to no platelet aggregation in the device. Patients presenting with bleeding symptoms but found not to have VWD (normal VWF:Ag levels) showed no significant difference (p=0.907) to controls. Furthermore, exogenous titration of Type 3 (n=2) VWD blood samples with purified VWF (10 - 100mg/mL) recapitulated platelet aggregation in a concentration dependent manner. Head to head comparison with standard laboratory based tests including, VWF:Ag, VWF:CB and VWF:RCo demonstrated a strong linear correlation with device output. In addition, time-course (0, 2 and 4 Hrs) trials demonstrate that the device is a sensitive measure of DDAVP treatment of VWD.


The Studies presented demonstrate that haemodynamically sensitive platelet aggregation within our prototype platform is critically dependent on blood VWF antigen levels and demonstrates good proof-of-concept that the microfludic can selectively identify VWD dependent defects in whole blood platelet aggregation. Taken together these data suggest that a microfluidic platform with discrete haemodynamic control can operate as a sensitive screen for VWD. Future studies will focus on defining the particle and key haemodynamic parameters that shift both device selectivity and sensitivity.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.