14 September 2014
Microbial pathogens in the bloodstream can lead to sepsis, when the immune system goes wild in response to the infection, often causing organ failure and death. It usually takes days to identify the culprit, so doctors use broad-spectrum antibiotics, which are not very effective. Now, though, researchers have debuted a potential solution: an external device that removes pathogens and toxins from blood. As infected blood passes through the device, it’s mixed with magnetic nanobeads coated with engineered proteins that bind to a range of nasties. Pictured is a protein-coated magnetic bead (blue) binding to Escherichia coli. The bead-bound invaders are then pulled from the flowing blood by a magnet, before the cleansed blood is returned to the patient. When tested in infected rats, the device worked well: the cleansed blood brought down the number of inflammatory proteins and reduced the impact on the rats’ vital organs.
Written by Daniel Cossins