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15/06/2021 News

The PERL develops a device to measure blood viscosity for hospitals...

Researchers are sharing their technical skills and know-how to serve public interest and the health sector.

  • As part of a research project to have blood viscosity measurements recognized as key data in medical diagnoses, the association Hemovis required a measurement device suited to the hospital environment 
  • The Microfluidics and Rheology team of the Platform for Experimental Research in Lacq contributed its know-how and seized the opportunity to carry out a mission of public interest and carry research forward.  
  • Thanks to the Action! program, four researchers volunteered to develop a viscometer prototype.  The development of this innovative equipment was based on former work done by the team on viscosity measures in an oil & gas environment.   By factoring in the different constraints and adapting the equipment, synergies were created between the oil & gas industry and hospitals! 

With this medical viscometer, the Hemovis association, funded by Alexandre de Tilly and supported by Professor Xavier Monnet from intensive care unit in Kremlin-Bicêtre hospital in Paris, will continue to make recognize blood viscosity as an essential hemodynamic data for improving patient care, if possible before the cytokine storm and circulatory collapse.  Because there was no way of simply and reliably measuring blood viscosity until now, this information was cruelly lacking in resuscitation units. It brings hope in the fight against Covid-19 mortality.


Carrying medical research forward

It appears that fluid flow in the pores of an oil reservoir displays similarities with blood flow in the veins. The language to explain it - physics - is common to both the oil & gas industry and the medical world. In the midst of the pandemic, the PERL team decided to share the technical competencies and transfer the know-how of TotalEnergies’s expertise center in Lacq as regards viscosity measurement.

Because a researcher’s time is very valuable, the researchers decided to call on Action! so they could continue the collaboration in the best possible conditions. The program enables all TotalEnergies employees to carry out volunteer missions for an association during their working hours.

“To begin with, we lent a latest-generation viscometer purchased by the PERL to Alexandre de Tilly, Scientific Manager of Hemovis, for his work on enhanced oil recovery. He used the device in the resuscitation unit at the Bicêtre hospital to perform over 200 viscosity measurements on blood samples from Covid-19 patients”, explain Stéphane Jouenne, Enric Santanach-Carreras, Guénaëlle Hauret and Guillaume Heurteux. Feedback from Alexandre de Tilly: “The measurements are satisfactory but use of the device has its constraints and the cost is prohibitive.”



A robust and portable device suited to the hospital environment

To make it easier to perform this kind of measurement in a hospital environment, the team of researchers wants to take things a step further by developing their own “low cost” viscometer.

Through discussions with the Hemovis team, the researchers realized that the oil & gas industry and hospitals have similar constraints: equipment must be robust, light, easy to use, move and clean.  The measurement principle is the same, only the environment is different - from an offshore or desert environment, to a hospital room. So the equipment had to be adapted, given that blood is a fluid that undergoes rapid changes from the moment it is drawn.  “We chose to work with consumables commonly used in hospitals – syringes, sampling tubes – and to reinforce the measurement technology.  Rather than install costly flowmeters using complex electronics, we developed a flow measurement device using a webcam that records the flow of blood through a tube. A world first! “. Volume was another aspect we had to adapt to, going from measuring several liters of viscous solution in the oil industry to a syringe containing 1 ml of blood. 

“We’re proud to have been able to use our skills and know-how to serve public interest and the health sector. It’s extremely satisfying for us to be able to transpose know-how from an oil industry application to the medical sector,” conclude the four researchers.  A year on, final touches are being made to the “home made” prototype and new tests are due to be performed soon on patients in resuscitation units.