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Researchers Develop Blood-Cleansing Biospleen Device For Sepsis Therapy

Update Date: Sep 15, 2014 09:39 AM EDT
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Researchers have devised a blood-cleansing biospleen device that may radically transform the way doctors treat sepsis. 

The device is inspired by the human spleen and developed by a team at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. 

"Even with the best current treatments, sepsis patients are dying in intensive care units at least 30 percent of the time," said Mike Super, Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist at the Wyss Institute, in the press release. "We need a new approach." Sepsis kills at least eight million people worldwide each year and it's the leading cause of hospital deaths.

According to the study, the device exceeded the team's expectations with its ability to cleanse human blood tested in the laboratory, increasing survival in animals with infected blood. 

Sepsis occurs when a patient's immune system overreacts to a bloodstream infection, triggering a chain reaction that can cause inflammation, blood clotting, organ damage. 

"This is setting the stage for a perfect storm," said Super, who was part of a team led by Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D..

"Sepsis is a major medical threat, which is increasing because of antibiotic resistance. We're excited by the biospleen because it potentially provides a way to treat patients quickly without having to wait days to identify the source of infection, and it works equally well with antibiotic-resistant organisms," said Ingber, who is also the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children's Hospital, as well as Professor of Bioengineering at SEAS. "We hope to move this towards human testing to advancing to large animal studies as quickly as possible."

The study has been reported in the journal Nature Medicine. 

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