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Diagnose sepsis in minutes, thanks to MIT’s new Microfluidics Device

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MIT has come up with a revolutionary sensor that can drastically bring down the time involved in diagnosing sepsis, a disease which is responsible for the death of 250,000 deaths annually only in the US.

Sepsis is a life-threatening, occurs when the immune system releases an abnormal amount of chemicals to fight infection, which might be detrimental for multiple organs. It needs an early diagnosis for the patient to survive. Previously doctors were using different tools which include finding early clues, blood test, and other lab tests.

Recently, the scientists have found a breakthrough in the research of sepsis. They were able to recognize a protein biomarker in the bloodstream that can indicate the early symptoms of sepsis. This protein is called Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and it is produced due to inflammation.

In patients with sepsis, an elevated level of Il-6 is found long before other syndromes eventually come up. Even with the heightened level, the protein concentration in the blood is so low that the conventional diagnosis cannot find it on time.

Cost-effective and easy to use

Dan Wu, a Ph.D. student at MIT said, “For acute diseases, such as sepsis which progresses rapidly and can be life-threatening, it is helpful to have a system that rapidly measures these non-abundant biomarkers, and you can frequently monitor the disease as it progresses.”

The types of equipment available before were very big and expensive, it took a blood sample from the patients and the report will take a few hours to get prepared. This was changed by “point of care” systems, which used less blood and time to reveal the result

The point of care system is also very expensive and was not that effective in finding the proteins in the blood. The doctors wanted an automated microfluidic device which should be smaller and use magnetic bead-based assessment as used in labs.

The new device is not only compact but it needs only 5 microliters of blood for testing and can detect IL-6 concentration as low as 16 picograms per milliliter. This proves the efficiency of the device at which it can detect the symptoms of sepsis.

The device uses 8 separate medium to calculate different biomarkers at the same time. The next in line is to develop a panel of significant sepsis biomarker that the device can detect, which include IL-6, IL-8, C-reactive protein and procalcitonin.

Wu said, “This is a very general platform, if you want to increase the devices physical footprint, you can scale up and design more channels to detect as many biomarkers as you want.”



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