Now, an in-flight blood clotting test for flyers

Updated: Apr 22, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

London: There is good news for air
passengers who are at high risk of fatal blood clots during
long haul flights.

European scientists are now developing a computerised
plastic strip that could assess the risk of the condition --
known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) -- through a simple blood
test among flyers.

The new system would require one drop of blood, which
would be analysed by a biochip for blood clotting markers that
indicate a high risk of DVT, the Daily Mail reported.

Immobility on flights can lead to DVT, when a blood clot
forms in the deep veins of the legs which can be dangerous if
left untreated. If this travels to the lungs, a pulmonary
embolism can result in the lungs collapsing and heart failure.

According to the report, researchers in eight European
countries are developing the technology for the DVT system and
other `smart plastics` to monitor body functions, such as a
sensor wristband for measuring electric smog to warn pacemaker
patients of life-threatening exposure.

Professor Karlheinz Bock, head of Polytronic Systems at
German research institute Fraunhofer IZM, which is taking part
in the European Union project, said: "This example shows
clearly the possibilities for polytronics.

"In a networked world, oriented towards people,
inexpensive, multifunctional systems are needed.

"In this manner, we can construct small, handy, and
easy-to-use systems that for the most part make life easier
for the sick and elderly."

According to the researchers, the single-use cartridge
plate could be carried around by anyone at risk of clotting
disorders, including stroke patients, pregnant women, obese
people and smokers.

Initially it is expected physicians would read the
results through a little hand-held scanner.

But like diabetics are currently able to read their
insulin levels with personal monitors, it is expected those at
risk of DVT would eventually be checking their own blood
clotting levels.

Prof Bock said it was essential that cost-efficient
methods were developed to manufacture disposable diagnostic

"Electronic systems have to be produced in large
quantities, in a cost-effective manner on large substrates.
And with polymer electronics, this would be perfectly
possible," he added.

Ten leading European research institutes and high tech
firms are currently working on the engineering of the
diagnostic systems for DVT.

They are also developing a sensor wristband that could
provide long-term monitoring of various important body
functions for older patients and athletes.

It is like a plastic wristwatch, but instead of a clock
dial, the sensor wristband is equipped with an illuminated
`electroluminescent display; that indicates for example the
actual body temperature at any time of the day.

It also detects skin moisture, which may be a sign for
the dehydration of the patient or athlete, said the scientist.