Electrophoretic Separations

Holiday with Capillary Electrophoresis — Keeping Blood Healthy

Jul 15 2016 Read 1791 Times

As summer approaches, people’s thoughts turn to holidays and travel. Holidays now seem to involve travel to destinations further afield — as travel becomes more affordable and people get more adventurous. In recent years one of the consequences of increased air are the news stories around deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) — and increasing numbers of people wearing funny looking socks on aeroplanes.

But DVT is a serious condition and one of the ways to treat it is by using the drug heparin. In a recent development a team of scientists from China and the US have developed a new method for analysing heparin and it’s based on capillary electrophoresis.

Sun, sea and DVT

DVT is simply the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein. They are found predominantly in the legs and especially in the deep veins within the calf muscle — hence the wearing of flight socks over the calf muscle. Besides being dangerous in their own right as they restrict blood flow — if parts of the blood clot break off they can travel through the bloodstream to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, a life threatening condition.

Long distance air travel isn’t the only cause of DVT of course — with factors that increase the risk of getting a DVT include:

  • Trauma or surgery causing damage to a vein which disrupts blood flow in the leg,
  • Inactivity such as bed rest during hospital stay or at home. Inactivity reduces blood flow that leads to an increased risk of a DVT,
  • Illness, medical condition or genetics can also increase risk of DVT.

It can be difficult to diagnose DVT — but if you have pain, swelling or an ache in your lower leg a trip to the GP is recommended, especially if you’ve recently been on your travels. If DVT is suspected, your GP might send you for a blood test called a ‘D-dimer test’ which counts the fragments of blood clot within your bloodstream. Ultrasound is the most reliable means to detect clots in your veins — with ultrasound also used to detect the speed of your blood, which can be an indicator of a clot.

Not really blood thinning medicine

When a clot is found one of the common forms of treatment involves the use of anticoagulant medicines. Often referred to as ‘blood thinning’ medicines, anticoagulants like heparin actually alter the proteins within the blood to prevent clots forming. But a few years ago, a bad batch of heparin caused the deaths of people in the US and Europe.

Since then researchers have been looking for a test that is quick and simple to replace existing LC-MS analysis for heparin. Now a team of researchers have developed a method based on capillary electrophoresis in tandem with mass spectrometry (CE-MS). A discussion on electrophoresis can be found in the article, Capillary Electrophoresis: an Attractive Technique for Chiral Separations.

Enjoy your holidays knowing CE-MS is taking care of you.

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