Researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston University, and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory have been working on a prototype device that can act as a physical filter to remove pathogens responsible for sepsis, reports MIT Technology Review.
The device itself contains a pair of microscopic channels–one for blood, the other for a saline-based solution. The two channels meet in a central compartment. The idea is to give the saline solution properties that will selectively draw pathogens out of blood as the two fluids mix.
However, because of their very small scale, microfluidic devices have no moving parts that can mechanically mix fluids together. Even as they come in contact, fluids will remain discrete, retaining their respective molecules. Then Ingber [Donald Ingber, principal project investigator at Children’s Hospital Boston –ed.] hit upon the idea to use a small magnetic field. He first identified specific molecules that naturally bind to certain pathogens related to sepsis. Ingber and his colleagues then coated these molecules with tiny magnetic beads in solution. They then pumped the solution through one channel as infected blood was pumped through the other. As the two channels funneled into one compartment, the team turned on a small magnet on the side of the magnetic bead solution. As the fluids came in contact, the pathogens from the blood bound with the magnetically coated molecules, which in turn were pulled toward the magnet, away from the blood flow.
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