Wyss Institute awarded DARPA contract to further advance sepsis therapeutic device

March 25, 2013
Harvard's Wyss Institute awarded DARPA contract to further advance sepsis therapeutic device
The microfluidic "Spleen-on-a-chip" developed at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University will be used to rapidly treat bloodstream infections. Credit: Wyss Institute, Harvard University

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University announced today that it was awarded a $9.25 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to further advance a blood-cleansing technology developed at the Institute with prior DARPA support, and help accelerate its translation to humans as a new type of sepsis therapy.

The device will be used to treat that are the leading cause of death in critically ill patients and soldiers injured in combat.

Harvard's Wyss Institute awarded DARPA contract to further advance sepsis therapeutic device
This image shows the microfluidic "Spleen-on-a-chip" developed at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. Credit: Wyss Institute, Harvard University

To rapidly cleanse the blood of pathogens, the patient's blood is mixed with magnetic nanobeads coated with a genetically engineered version of a human blood 'opsonin' protein that binds to a wide variety of bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, and toxins. It is then flowed through microchannels in the device where pull out the bead-bound pathogens without removing human blood cells, proteins, fluids, or electrolytes – much like a human spleen does. The cleansed blood then flows back to the patient.

"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," said Wyss founding director and project leader, Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. "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."

The team will work to develop manufacturing and integration strategies for its core pathogen-binding opsonin and Spleen-on-a-Chip fluidic separation technologies, as well as a novel called "SLIPS," which is a super- inspired from the slippery surface of a that repels nearly any material it contacts. By coating the inner surface of the channels of the device with SLIPS, blood cleansing can be carried out without the need for anticoagulants to prevent blood clotting.

In addition to Ingber, the multidisciplinary team behind this effort includes Wyss core faculty and Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science faculty member Joanna Aizenberg, Ph.D., who developed the SLIPS technology; Wyss senior staff member Michael Super, PhD., who engineered the human opsonin protein; and Mark Puder, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatric Surgery at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School who will be assisting with animal studies.

Explore further: New 'magnetic yeast' marks step toward harnessing Nature's magnetic capabilities

Related Stories

Researchers create living human gut-on-a-chip

March 27, 2012

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have created a gut-on-a-chip microdevice lined by living human cells that mimics the structure, physiology, and mechanics of the ...

Smart suit improves physical endurance

July 20, 2012

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University today announced that it has received a $2.6 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a smart suit ...

Crowdsourcing breakthrough treatments for blood infections

August 31, 2012

If asked how today's toughest medical problems are being solved, most people would probably envision highly skilled physicians and scientists working countless hours with sophisticated lab equipment, not people sitting in ...

Recommended for you

Basic research fuels advanced discovery

August 26, 2016

Clinical trials and translational medicine have certainly given people hope and rapid pathways to cures for some of mankind's most troublesome diseases, but now is not the time to overlook the power of basic research, says ...

New avenue for understanding cause of common diseases

August 25, 2016

A ground-breaking Auckland study could lead to discoveries about many common diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. The new finding could also illuminate the broader role of the enigmatic mitochondria in human development.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.