Researchers Developing an Artificial Spleen

Healthy spleen, artwork - RC7446
Researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created a device that can filter toxins and pathogens out of the blood, in hopes of preventing the body's fatal immune response to blood infections known as sepsis.  The device, inspired by the spleen's ability to clean the blood, uses magnetic nanobeads coated with a protein found in humans known as MBL.  The MBL protein binds to the surface of different bacteria, viruses, and toxins, while a magnet in the device pulls the protein coated beads and pathogens out of blood filtered through the machine.

When the device was tested on rats infected with E. coli or Staphylococcus aureus, the device improved survival rates and removed more than 90% of the bacteria from the rats' blood.  Researchers hope that by removing the majority of pathogens from a patient's blood, the body's immune system can easily fight off the remaining infection without resorting to the overuse of antibiotics.

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