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IIT-M device can diagnose sepsis early

CHENNAI: Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology Madras have developed an instrument that can predict in real time onset of sepsis, by continuous monitoring and measuring one of its indicators.

Sepsis, a life-threatening condition when the body’s extreme response to an infection triggers inflammation, causes one in five deaths globally. In 2017, an estimated 50 million people were diagnosed with it.

The device works on microfluidic-based chip technology which uses sound waves, chemical probes, microfluidic mixer and reactor and laser to measure levels of certain gaseous molecules in blood plasma. The team has applied for a patent and is looking for an industry partner to manufacture a prototype to validate the technology already tested on animals.

Prof Ashis Kumar Sen of IIT-M’s department of mechanical engineering said it measures levels of gasotransmitters -hydrogen sulfide, and carbon monoxide in plasma – that are biomarkers for an early warning for sepsis. Currently, diagnosis involves blood culture and manual intervention that require up to 48 hours. “Currently, there is no technique for continuous monitoring of gasotransmitters or any biomarker in blood. This is where our technology comes in. Some patients show systemic inflammatory response syndrome, an early warning for sepsis, during surgery. The levels of gasotransmitter change as soon as inflammation starts, and the idea is to monitor them,” he said. IIT-M collaborated with Apollo Hospitals and Institute of Biomedical Studies to develop the device. ]

The instrument uses sound waves to separate opaque blood cells from plasma. Gases in the plasma then bind with chemical probes specific to gases in gasotransmitters in a microfluidic mixer and reactor or a microchannel, producing compounds. The compounds are excited with a laser to emit fluorescence which is captured by a detector and whose intensity is proportional to the level of gases in plasma. The entire process happens in a closed environment as gases can otherwise escape. “During the progress of the inflammatory syndrome, you can capture dynamics of the gases which change every few minutes with the instrument and predict onset of sepsis,” said Prof Sen.

Dr Paul Ramesh Thangaraj of Apollo Hospitals said: “Our interdisciplinary research is aimed at gaining insight into fundamental process at work and providing a bedside diagnostic test that will help treat patients earlier thereby hopefully reducing death and disability from this disease.”

The project, funded by IIT-M and ministry of education under ‘IMPRINT’ scheme, won the ‘SITARE- Gandhian Young Technological Innovations Award 2020’.