Technology advances allow insights into white blood cell function in sepsis

An innovative method of measuring the immune system’s white blood cells from a small blood sample could provide significantly more prognostic information about patients with sepsis.

Researchers collected a few drops of blood from 18 hospitalized patients and 10 healthy volunteers for one week. They then added the blood droplets to a tiny channel to sort the larger white blood cells from their smaller red blood cell counterparts and other elements of the blood. Then, researchers employed a technique to further separate the white blood cells based on their electrical activity, which changes when these immune cells become activated.

This activated state allows researchers to differentiate between patients with or without inflammation, and provided important information about the function and activation state of white blood cells.

Researchers say this approach could be more predictive of the patient’s clinical course than the traditional method of measuring white blood cell counts. The study, partly funded by NHLBI, published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.