Harvard researchers develop dialysis device to fight Ebola

Scientists at Harvard University are creating a device that acts like a human spleen and filters deadly pathogens out of the blood, effectively treating 90 ailments including Ebola, E. coli and HIV, the Washington Post reports.  The device functions similar to a dialysis machine, but also includes a genetically modified protein that maximizes the body’s ability to fight pathogens.

The research team used genetically modified mannose-binding lectin (MBL) to reduce sepsis, or toxic buildup of pathogens, and cut down on potentially deadly inflammation.  Researchers coated nano-sized microbeads with the genetically modified protein, which binds to the blood when it passes through the device.  The magnetic force pulls out the toxins, and then the device returns “clean” blood to the body.

Harvard scientists filtered the blood of rats infected with deadly levels of E. Coli, and found that 89% of the rats whose blood who had been filtered with the device survived, as opposed to 14% who survived with no blood filter, according to theWashington Post article.  Results were published on Sunday in the journal Nature Medicine.  “There’s a huge need for treatment of patients with sepsis, especially because it increases antibiotic resistance,” lead researcher Donald Ingber told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, drugmakers and government agencies are pushing for speedy solutions to quell the outbreak. Earlier this month, GlaxoSmithKline unveiled new data showing its experimental Ebola vaccine protected monkeys in a preclinical study.  The pharma giant said last month that it would begin enrolling healthy patients in clinical trials in mid-September to test its investigational vaccine.

The FDA is also fast-tracking the development of an investigational combination vaccine from Johnson & Johnson and partner Bavarian Nordic.  J&J said it hopes to test the jab in clinical trials in early 2015.

REFERENCE:  Fierce Medical Devices; 16 SEP 2014; Emily Wasserman

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