1. Aggregation assays are a commonly used technique for the study of granulocyte activation. These studies are usually performed using a pure cell suspension in buffer. This necessitates a separation procedure which is time-consuming and may modify the function of the cells. Interaction between different cell types is precluded.
2. To avoid these disadvantages a method was developed which quantifies granulocyte aggregation in whole blood. Samples drawn from an incubated vessel before and after the addition of a chemotactic stimulus were fixed with formaldehyde to prevent disaggregation. Erythrocytes were then removed by chemical lysis and using an electronic cell-sizing device the number of single cells and aggregates could then be easily measured.
3. Results from a group of volunteers showed a rapid and reversible response to a chemotactic tripeptide, with a fall in single granulocyte count and the appearance of doublets and triplets. Lymphocytes were unaffected. Intra-assay reproducibility was better than ± 5%.
4. Using this assay, a significant elevation in aggregability was observed in blood from patients after acute myocardial infarction.
5. This novel technique, by avoiding the separation step, is faster, simpler and more physiological than previous methods, and as such is useful for both assays of drug action in vitro and the study of cell activation in disease states.