Improving life support by de-stressing blood cells

Improving life support by de-stressing blood cells

Antony McNamee – PhD candidate, Griffith University

A Griffith University researcher investigating how life support machines can cause life-threatening complications has won the Judge’s Award in the 2019 Fresh Science Competition.

As a Queensland finalist in the 2019 Fresh Science Competition, Gold Coast based PhD candidate Antony McNamee was recognised for delivering the best public presentation of his research within a minute.

His research involves working to improve mechanical life support systems by assessing the damage they can have on the blood of critically ill patients, also creating life-threatening complications.

“We found that the forces in life support machines damages blood structure and function with a run-on effect on patient health,” said Antony.

While life support systems are vital for saving or extending the lives of critically ill patients, they can cause secondary complications that increase the risk of multi-organ failure or death.

“Our goal was to see how the mechanical forces of a life-support system affects the ability of the patient’s blood to travel around the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients,” he said.

“We found that the mechanical forces within life support systems change the shape of red blood cells, reducing their ability to function as well.”

“The blood of patients under life support was also more likely to clump together. And the longer a patient is on life support, the more likely it is for their blood cells to be damaged.”

The project, which is being undertaken in the Biorheology Research Laboratory at the Menzies Health Institute at Griffith University, now aims to develop new and more sensitive ways to detect red blood cell damage early to prevent life-threatening complications.

The research findings will also provide valuable information for developing other clinical surgery equipment and boosting the effectiveness of medical treatment.

“It is exciting that Antony and his team are being recognised for their internationally significant investigations,” said Professor David Lloyd, Director, GCOREMenzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University.

“Ultimately, the outcomes of this important research will deliver improved medical treatments and a better quality of life for those requiring life-support (in surgery, trauma incidents, and dialysis).”

Fresh Science is organised nationally by Science in Public. In Queensland, Econnect Communication trains and hosts the Fresh Science finalists. Sponsors of Fresh Science in Queensland were Queensland University of Technology, the University of Queensland, and Griffith University.

Feature photo credit: Pexels.

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