Red blood cells (RBC) are amazing natural machines for delivering oxygen to tissue and sustaining life. Unfortunately, they can be easily damaged by medical devices (such as dialyzers or LVADs), pharmaceuticals, storage, or disease.
The main test for RBC damage is hemolysis – or cell rupture. However, this fails to detect other mechanical damage (“sub-hemolytic” damage) that does not cause immediate cell rupture – typically the case for the vast majority of cells. Such “hidden” damage can pose a significant health hazard.
In other words, when it comes to understanding blood damage, RBC hemolysis is just the tip of the iceberg.
The mechanical fragility (MF) of RBC is recognized as a more sensitive indicator of overall membrane damage than hemolysis alone. Prior to Blaze, approaches to measuring this fundamental blood property have not been practical for standardization or commercialization. In addition, single-point (i.e. non-profile-based) index values generated by those methods have a limited capacity to adequately reflect cells’ propensity to hemolyse under varying and/or protracted stresses.
Profiling of RBC MF using conventional means is laborious and lengthy, and has been rare thus far. Overcoming technological hurdles such as real-time tracking of induced hemolysis changes, combined with innovative mechanical stressors for controlling the hemolysis induced, are key to widespread use of RBC MF in various applications.