Medical science investigates a spleen-on-a-chip

Posted by a staff writer

Harvard scientists are developing a new device that could help replace the good old spleen. The spleen’s job is to filter our blood and prevent potentially fatal sepsis.

However, in some cases the spleen can’t do the job on its own. This is where the spleen-on-a-chip might come in handy. By circulating the patient’s blood through the device, doctors should be able to get rid of excess pathogens, anything ranging from bacteria and viruses to parasites and fungi. 

The whole contraption works by mixing magnetic nanobeads with blood. The beads are coated with a genetically engineered version of human blood protein. The protein bonds with the nasty stuff and then the blood and nanobead mixture is separated in a series of microchannels. Since the beads are magnetic, they can be easily extracted, allowing the blood to be pumped back into the patient. 

According to Gizmag, DARPA is interested in the technology, as it could be easily adapted to treat soldiers in the battlefield. And no Keith Richards, you can’t have one yet. Animal testing is being planned, but human trials seem like a long way off.