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Bionic biospleen uses nanotechnology to eradicate bloodborne diseases

Bionic organs and 3d-printed bones are nothing new, but researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have developed a synthetic “biospleen” that can filter the body’s blood and thus rid it of infections, and possibly, nullify diseases like Ebola.

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The spleen, at least naturally, is the primary blood-filtering organ, removing old or tainted blood cells, recycling iron and creating white blood cells — the soldiers of the body.

The study, recently published in Nature Medicine journal, lauds the new technology, suggesting that it can filter potentially-killer diseases like Ebola. Even when not challenged by a life-threatening illness, it paves the way for treatment of sepsis from bloodstream infection, which leads to the death of around 30% of intensive care patients.

The device’s inner workings are a bit more complex.

Using a network of nanobeads coated in mannose-binding lectin (a protein found naturally in human beings) the sugar-coated molecules on the surface of bacteria are attracted to the beads, cohesively grouping them, allowing for extraction. According to the study, this includes over 90 types.

The blood enters this network and the nanobeads get to work, filtering the bacteria. The bacteria is trapped by the lectin-laced beads and is separated from the now-clean blood by a magnet. The blood, rid of the impurities, can now reenter the blood.

It’s proven to work rather well too. 89% of infected rats were alive after five hours of treatment, compared to 14% that didn’t receive the filtering.

The technology is still in its infancy, but could find use in the treatment of HIV, Ebola and other difficult to diagnose and detect diseases. The developers hope that the pathogens removed can be studied, allowing for the creation of possible cures.

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