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article imageMicrofluidics device diagnoses sepsis in minutes

By Tim Sandle     Jul 29, 2019 in Health
Time matters greatly in hospitals and this includes undertaking diagnoses as rapidly as possible. A new automated system can detect an early biomarker for the potentially life-threatening condition sepsis within a few minutes.
A new sensor has been designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers and it could significantly accelerate the process of diagnosing sepsis. Sepsis is a serious complication of an infection where the body's response to infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs (an inflammation chain reaction).
The disease is becoming more common, partly due to increasing antibiotic resistance in the general population. Sepsis can lead to septic shock, where blood pressure falls and organs shut down.
The conventional method for diagnosing sepsis is based on a combination of vital signs, blood tests and imaging methods. An accurate diagnosis can take several days. The new rapid method aims to address this by focusing on the identification of protein biomarkers in the blood. These markers serve as an early indicator of sepsis. This is based on microfluidics, which is the science of manipulating and controlling fluids.
Working with one biomarker — interleukin-6 — researchers have designed a new device. The microfluidics-based system can automatically detect high levels of IL-6 to make a sepsis diagnosis. As Engadget reports, the result is obtained within 25 minutes and it only requires a finger prick of blood.
The device is multi-channeled. In one container, microbeads are positioned. These beads are coated with antibodies, plus a catalyzing enzyme called horseradish peroxidase, and the beads mix with the blood sample. This captures any of the IL-6 biomarker present. In a second channel, only those beads containing the biomarker are present and these become attached to an electrode. When a charge is run through the electrode, this generates an electrical signal for the biomarker-laced beads. The signal is then converted to provide the biomarker concentration level.
According to lead researcher Dr. Dan Wu: "For an acute disease, such as sepsis, which progresses very rapidly and can be life-threatening, it’s helpful to have a system that rapidly measures these nonabundant biomarkers... and can also frequently monitor the disease as it progresses."
The device has been exhibited at the 2019 Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference.
More about microfluidics, Sepsis, Bacteria, Pathology
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