Harvard Scientists Develop Blood Cleansing Technology That Treats Sepsis

Posted on March 25, 2013

Scientists at Harvard's Wyss Institute have developed a technology called "Spleen-on-a-chip." The blood-cleansing technology is a new type of sepsis therapy. The researchers were awarded a $9.25 million contract from DARPA to further advance the technology.

The device will treat bloodstream infections that are the leading cause of death in critically ill patients and soldiers injured in combat. The patient's blood is mixed with magnetic nanobeads coated with a genetically engineered version of a human blood 'opsonin' protein that can bind to bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, and toxins. The blood flows through microchannels in the device where magnetic forces pull out the bead-bound pathogens without removing human blood cells, proteins, fluids or electrolytes. The cleansed blood flows back into the patient. The function of the machine is similar to the spleen, which acts like a blood filter for the body, hence the name Spleen-on-a-chip.

Wyss founding director Don Ingbear, M.D. Ph.D., said in a statement, "In just a few years we have been able to develop a suite of new technologies, and to integrate them to create a powerful new device that could potentially transform the way we treat sepsis. The continued support from DARPA enables us to advance our device manufacturing capabilities and to obtain validation in large animal models, which is precisely what is required to enable this technology to be moved towards testing in humans."

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