An artist's concept of how a device designed by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's Dialysis-Like Therapeutics program would remove "dirty" blood and replace it with "clean" blood in the treatment of sepsis. (Source: DARPA)
Looks like some great potential for mitigating one of the greater risks to injured soliders. When you liken it to equipment used for dialysis, though, I'm imaging these are pretty big machines, which seems to me that it would be more realistic for these to be part of combat hospitals as opposed to units engaged in the field.
This is exciting stuff. When I was in college, I worked on a portable membrane filtration system for red blood cells. For long-term storage, red blood cells are treated with glycerol and frozen, but the glycerol needs to be removed before they can be used in a transfusion. The system we designed was a closed-loop system which used refractive index and UV spectrophotometry to ensure that the blood cells were clean. This DARPA project is obviously much more complex.
Besides being used to treat wounded soldiers, I could imagine this technology being used to treat maternal sepsis and neonatal sepsis, which claim the lives of many mothers and their newborn children, especially in developing countries.
This looks like a great idea and the latest in battlefield medicine, which has a long history of innovations in emergency surgery and certain preventive techniques. I wouldn't be surprised if DARPA-funded research has shrunk the size of these machines dramatically from what's used for dialysis.
Good to see this technology being developed. A relatively young and healthy friend of mine contracted sepsis and was hours away from death before it was finally identified and before the drugs took effect. It was very scary. I hope that the cost of the device is also reasonable so that this equipment can be purchased by many hospitals.
I lost a friend to sepsis a few years back By time they recognized it, it was too late. By one account as many as 750,000 people a year are afflicted in the US alone. What's good for the battlefield is good at home as well.
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