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 bloodstream infections that are the
leading cause of death in critically ill patients and soldiers injured
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 magnetic forces 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.
The technology makes use of specialized blood proteins and magnetic forces to pull pathogens from the blood. (Credit: Wyss Institute)
"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 coating technology
called "SLIPS," which is a super-hydrophobic coating inspired from the
slippery surface of a pitcher plant 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, Ph.D., 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.