Recently, researchers have come to realize that neutrophils – the most abundant type of white blood cell – play a key role in both chronic and acute inflammation, and in the activation of the immune system in response to injury. Of course, the best way to study neutrophils is to get a hold of some, but traditional methods have required relatively large blood samples, and take up to two hours. Because neutrophils are sensitive to handling, it is also possible to inadvertently activate them, which alters their molecular patterns. A microfluidic device developed at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), however, allows for neutrophils to be collected from a relatively small blood sample, unactivated, in just minutes.
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