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UBC/CBS researcher invents device to boost world supply, quality of blood platelets

Cancer and open-heart surgery patients, disaster victims, organ or bone marrow transplant recipients, and others who require life-saving blood platelet transfusions will benefit from equipment invented by a researcher at the University of British Columbia's Centre for Blood Research (CBR). The device has the potential to minimize the loss of donated platelets and effectively increase platelet supply by up to 20 per cent, in Canada alone.

The instrument, called a Dynamic Light Scattering Platelet Monitor (DLS-PM), is the first to measure the quality of blood platelets a key blood component that is transfused specifically to improve clotting and stop bleeding.

Currently, there is no routine test to measure quality of platelets. World standards dictate that platelets must be used within five days to avoid possible risk of bacterial infection. Using the DLS-PM, in conjunction with improved platelet storage practices and changes to blood operator regulations, platelets could be stored for 8-14 days, following a single-step quality test.

Platelets have the shortest shelf life of any blood component because refrigeration destroys their viability. In addition, although platelets less than five days old are viable, there are variations in quality. The monitor will allow blood analysts to improve the way blood products are matched to the patient.

Elisabeth Maurer, a UBC clinical assistant professor of pathology and Canadian Blood Services scientist, designed the instrument, and Keddie Brown, a fourth-year UBC engineering physics student, fabricated the prototype. Canadian Blood Services has patented the DLS-PM.

"We hope to dramatically increase the storage time for platelets with this instrument," says Maurer, an expert in physical chemistry. "Also, we'll now know within 15 minutes which is the best platelet product for the patient."

The DLS-PM, roughly the size of a large shoebox, contains a unique holder that grips a
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Contact: Hilary Thomson
hilary.thomson@ubc.ca
604-822-2644
University of British Columbia
31-Jan-2006


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