Characterizing asthma from a drop of blood using neutrophil chemotaxis

Eric Karl Heinz Sackmann, Erwin Berthier, Elizabeth A. Schwantes, Paul S. Fichtinger, Michael D. Evans, Laura L. Dziadzio, Anna Huttenlocher, Sameer K. Mathur, David J. Beebe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects more than 300 million people worldwide. Asthma management would benefit from additional tools that establish biomarkers to identify phenotypes of asthma. We present a microfluidic solution that discriminates asthma from allergic rhinitis based on a patient's neutrophil chemotactic function. The handheld diagnostic device sorts neutrophils from whole blood within 5 min, and generates a gradient of chemoattractant in the microchannels by placing a lid with chemoattractant onto the base of the device. This technology was used in a clinical setting to assay 34 asthmatic (n = 23) and nonasthmatic, allergic rhinitis (n = 11) patients to establish domains for asthma diagnosis based on neutrophil chemotaxis. We determined that neutrophils from asthmatic patients migrate significantly more slowly toward the chemoattractant compared with nonasthmatic patients (P = 0.002). Analysis of the receiver operator characteristics of the patient data revealed that using a chemotaxis velocity of 1.55 μm/min for asthma yields a diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of 96% and 73%, respectively. This study identifies neutrophil chemotaxis velocity as a potential biomarker for asthma, andwe demonstrate a microfluidic technology that was used in a clinical setting to perform these measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5813-5818
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 22 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Diagnostics
  • Microfluidics
  • Passive pumping


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