A new microfluidic method for evaluating drugs commonly used for preventing heart attacks has found that while aspirin can prevent dangerous blood clots in some at-risk patients.
It may not be effective in all patients with narrowed arteries. The study, which involved 14 human subjects, used a device that simulated blood flowing through narrowed coronary arteries to assess effects of anti-clotting drugs.
The study is the first to examine how aspirin and another heart attack prevention drug respond to a variety of mechanical blood flow forces in healthy and diseased arteries. Patients' blood was tested in a patent-pending microfluidic device with narrow passageways to simulate the coronary arteries. The data are consistent with clinical findings showing that physiology has a major influence on the effectiveness of drugs used for heart attack prevention.
The researchers believe that a benchtop diagnostic device like the one used in this study could save lives by preventing heart attacks and help lower healthcare costs by giving physicians better guidance on how drugs may affect individual patients.
"Doctors have many drug options and it is difficult for them to determine how well each of those options is going to work for a patient," said Melissa Li, who was a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology at the time of the study. "This study is the first time that a prototype benchtop diagnostic device has tried to address this problem using varying shear rates and patient dosing and tried to make it more personalized."
The study was sponsored by the American Heart Association, a Wallace H. Coulter Foundation Translational Grant and by a fellowship from the Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results (TI:GER) program at Georgia Tech. The study was published in a recent edition of the journal PLOS ONE
About 10 percent of the U.S. population takes drugs every day because they are at risk of a heart attack. When a patient comes to a hospital with heart disease, doctors have multiple treatment options, all with different routes of action, time scales and prices.
"For a patient being prescribed anti-thrombotic drugs who is at risk for a heart attack, we can draw a small amount of their blood and quickly push a little bit through this device, and based on that information, tell them to take a certain amount of a certain drug. That's where we're going with this project," said Craig Forest, an assistant professor of bioengineering in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. Forest's lab led the study in collaboration with David Ku, a medical doctor and mechanical engineering professor at Georgia Tech. Ku is the Lawrence P. Huang Chair Professor of Engineering Entrepreneurship and a Regents' Professor of Mechanical Engineering.