Plaque for EPSRC Platform in Engineering Blood Diagnostics unveiled as “Clot Busters” researchers attempt world record in aid of Thrombosis UK

A plaque to celebrate Swansea University’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Platform in Engineering Blood Diagnostics was unveiled this week (Thursday, October 13) at the Centre for NanoHealth by the Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard B Davies.

EPSRC visit on World Thrombosis DayResearchers from the Medical School and the College of Engineering also attempted to break the Guinness World Record for “Most hits of a person with water balloons in three minutes by a team”, in aid of Thrombosis UK and to mark World Thrombosis Day, at the University’s Bay Campus.

Dr Karl Hawkins, Associate Professor and Devices Theme Lead, Swansea University Medical School, said: “We didn’t break the World Record, but hopefully we’ve succeeded in promoting thrombosis awareness and raised some funds for Thrombosis UK.”‌

World Thrombosis Day focuses attention on the often overlooked and misunderstood condition of thrombosis. 

Red water balloons, symbolising red blood cells, were thrown at a target to demonstrate how we can all help to bust dangerous clots.

World Thrombosis Day - 1What is Thrombosis?

When we injure ourselves—a cut to the skin for example—coagulation is activated and a clot is formed to protect us from losing blood.

But sometimes this function can go wrong and the blood becomes a gel within a blood vessel that has not been cut, causing what is known as a thrombosis or a blood clot. 

Thrombosis is the underlying pathology in many diseases such as Deep Vein Thrombosis, Heart Attacks and Strokes.

Some Facts: 

-           Thrombosis is a leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for one in 4 deaths.

-           Up to one in every 1000 are affected by venous thrombosis (a blood blot in the vein) each year.

-           Two-thirds of all clots happen after being in hospital - the most common cause of hospital deaths in the UK that can be prevented.

-           On average, one to two women in every 1,000 will get a venous thrombosis during pregnancy or just after delivery

Blood Clot Research at Swansea

Swansea University’s cutting edge research, funded by an EPSRC Healthcare Impact Partnership, addresses an unmet clinical need for improved monitoring and prediction of abnormal blood clotting (thrombosis) in disease.

Dr Karl Hawkins, Associate Professor and Devices Theme Lead, Swansea University Medical School, said: “Our Healthcare Impact Partnership, led by Professor Rhodri Williams, brings together academics at the Colleges of Engineering and the Medical School, consultant colleagues at Morriston Hospital, led by Professor Adrian Evans and Industry.  We have developed new biomarkers (or clinical tests) that could save thousands of lives.

“This is further strengthened by a recent award of an EPSRC Platform Grant, led by Professor Huw Summers, College of Engineering, which is developing integrated technologies that provide a comprehensive understanding of a patient’s blood.

“An example is a technology based on microfluidic devices (or a “blood chip”) whereby a finger prick sample of blood will be tested and results of biomarkers provided in almost an instant. This will help the clinician make an immediate decision about the course of treatment, thus minimising any delays and ultimately benefiting the patient.”

Dr Dan Curtis, Senior Lecturer, College of Engineering, said: “As an engineer I find it fascinating that such a complex process like blood clotting can be characterised using techniques you would be more likely to find in the polymer processing industry.

“It was great to be able to promote this work on World Thrombosis Day. It highlights the global impact our work at Swansea is having.”

World Thrombosis Day - 2Furthermore, many of the group who helped organise the event were female engineers. They believe the risk of thrombosis for women is something that is often overlooked. The team felt that it was important to use this event to highlight and raise awareness of this particular health risk.

Dr Bethan Thomas, Research Officer at the College of Engineering and Medical School, said: “My work involves the research and engineering of new diagnostic blood assays by measuring the mechanical properties of healthy and unhealthy clots.

“As part of our World Thrombosis Day fundraising event, my colleagues and I really wanted to pay particular attention and raise awareness of the risk of thrombosis in women, as I know many people believe thrombosis or heart disease only poses a health risk for men.

“By talking about thrombosis, including what increases your chances of experiencing an episode and what are the common symptoms, we can help to prevent and reduce everyone’s risk of cardiovascular disease.” 

You can still donate via the “Clot Busters” event JustGiving page here.