The spleen’s job is to filter our blood. When people are critically ill or have received traumatic injuries, however, the spleen alone is sometimes not able to remove enough of the pathogens on its own – potentially-fatal sepsis is the result. In order to help avert such an outcome in those situations, scientists from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University are developing a device known as the spleen-on-a-chip.
The patient’s blood is circulated through the device. The process begins with magnetic nanobeads being mixed with the blood. Those beads are coated with a genetically engineered version of a human blood opsonin protein, that bonds with pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and toxins.